Chaparral coach Charlie Ragle took a new job at the University of Arizona this week to work with new Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez as assistant director of football operations and a liaison for high school relations. He begins his new position Jan. 3, but we caught up with him for a few minutes on Wednesday to talk about the past and future.
Given your desires to be a college coach vs. what Chaparral has become in recent years, was this an easy move to make?
That's a tough one. It's been a goal for awhile. It's why I took the ASU grad assistant position (under former ASU coach Dirk Koetter) and ultimately I'd like to be a Division I football coach. It's not easy, I've spent 6 years at Chaparral (5 as head coach, 1 as defensive coordinator) and those years are very special. to build that program and try to move it to another level. I hope I'm leaving it - hopefully to (current offensive coordinator) Dave Huffine - in even better shape. It wasn't easy to walk away, because there were so many great people. That's the hardest. I pride myself on knowing how to win and that starts with surrounding yourself and with great administration. That's pivotal. In my opinion these are the best group of coaches in the state, and a great parent group. It's a great group of kids there. Those things aren't easy to walk away from. The timing is right with two young kids, and if I want to chase this dream I have to go now. Here we are.
ASU offered you a similar position that you took with U of A. Was the Rich Rodriguez familiarity the difference?
Life is about relationships and I believe those guys I had several years ago was a big factor in making that decision. Some conversations I've had with (U of A athletic director) Greg Byrne weighed heavily on my decision. I really believe you have to have a clear, concise vision and they do. We had some great conversations with me and (ASU coach Todd Graham) and I can see why he's been successful.
Will you have input into the next coach at Chaparral?
I'll meet with them on Thursday. Dave (Huffine)'s been there since 2005 with me and if he wants it, I think he's got to be their first choice.
Is it clear what you'll be doing at U of A or are there job duties still to be defined?
It's a work in progress but they know I'm, in my blood, a football coach. My relationships with coaches and I know these (high school) coaches. I'm an Arizona football coach and always will be. I think helping them foster relationships with high schools here that much quicker will be paramount in hitting the ground running while recruiting. We want to keep the top kids here and have them at the University of Arizona.
Whether it's Huffine or someone else, what advice would you give to the next Chaparral coach?
Knowing it and living it are two different things. That's the biggest thing. You have to have someone who understands what it means, and it's not a negative whatsoever, it's a reality. It's not like any high school job in the state, and to a man, I think most administrators and coaches would agree. It's big business. You're raising money to pay off facilities and help a great booster club, and you have to feed the machines. It's positive and doing great things for kids and the way it should be, IMO. But it requires a ton of work. A very small piece of pie is 'football coach' and you really have to understand that. I didn't get that until at least two years in, but it goes back to being successful and we had a vision, but I was surrounded by great coordinators and a ton of assistant coaches who were studs. These guys were successful business people who brought different business and coaching perspectives. It's bringing different pieces to help me us be the total piece. It's because of those guys we could be successful. You just really have to understand that. It's much, much more than just football.
Right or wrong, this program gets more attention and scrutiny than almost any other in the state. Is that fair?
If you do things right, it is. I have no problem with parents bringing kids with open enrollment and bringing them in with a son who has football skills, I have no problem with parents seeking that out. That's just the way it is, the pros and cons to it are well discussed and I get both arguments. It's a balancing act. (Chaparral) won three state championships long before me. I think we've ratched up the exposure. I think it's a good thing if handled the right way. It's a delicate balance between kids who come in there and having kids for four years. It's just more scrutinized now with the Internet and greater emphasis on high school athletics. There's nothing more you can do these days other than have great communication line and do things the way they're supposed to. What else can you do? I think it can be difficult or be a bigger problem if you don't have that guy at the top who understands how to deal with all the attention.
Besides specific plays or nitty-gritty details, anything you'd have done differently or want a restart?
Not really. There are things I've done differently. I think we did what was right at the time, but like anything in life it's a process and a big learning process. You learn as you go, on-the-job experience. Next time I'm a coach, will there things I'd do differently? Most definitely. But the five years here? Probably not. We were pretty successful and tried to do it the best way we could. I don't have any regrets and am pretty proud of what we've done.