Rhinelander High School has been without a head football coach for nearly four months, however activities director Brian Paulson said this week the interview process for the next head coach of the Hodag gridders will begin shortly.
When asked for a status update on the coaching search, Paulson told the River News the district has received "just under 10" applications for the vacancy. A number of those candidates will be interviewed for the position, he added.
"The first week of April we're going to look to be doing interviews for our vacancy for the head football job," Paulson said.
Due to the ongoing nature of the process, Paulson said he could not directly name those who have applied for the position, but said he has a varied list of candidates.
"We have some in-house candidates, multiple in-house candidates, and a few out-of-house candidates that are interested in the coaching position," he said, noting that "probably less than half the candidates" have previous head coaching experience.
Rhinelander has been in the market for a new head coach since Nov. 28 when district administration opted not to renew Chris Ferge's football coaching contract. Ferge went 9-35 overall in five seasons as head coach from 2014-2018, but only 2-28 in the Great Northern Conference - and both of those conference wins came during the 2017 season.
At the time, district administrator Kelli Jacobi told the River News "it became apparent that there was a loss of confidence and support in the program, in the coaches."
Paulson said no determination has been made as of yet regarding how many of the applicants will be interviewed. He added that he is in the process of putting together an interviewing committee, which he hopes will have a number of stakeholders in the Hodag football program.
"Obviously, administrators here," he said. "We'd like to have a (Hodag) Gridiron (Club) member, a community member and somebody that's on the coaching staff already."
Paulson said the school would like to come to terms with a new head coach shortly after the interview process is done, however he noted the school is keeping its options open based on the outcome of the first round of interviews.
"We'll decide if we are going to move forward with a candidate, if we'll have a second round of interviews with different questions or do we go back to the drawing board all together," he said. "Those are our three options right now."
The lengthy interim period without a head coach is not unprecedented. In 2014 the district decided to not renew the contract of then head-coach Jim Moore in mid-January and did not hire Ferge until the third week of May.
Part of the reason for the long delay is that the district needed to determine what teaching vacancies there would be for the 2019-20 school year. If the district decides to move forward with a coaching candidate from outside the district, most likely the hiring would be tied to filling a teaching vacancy.
Whoever takes over as head coach will be tasked with turning around a program that has only qualified for the WIAA playoffs twice (2012, 1989), has not had a winning season since 1994 and has not won a conference championship since 1989.
A southerly eye
In other AD-related news, Paulson said this week he's keeping an eye to the south while hoping that Mother Nature delivers a significant warmup to avoid a repeat of last year's snow-packed spring schedule.
Both the RHS softball and baseball teams are slated to open their seasons at Merrill in non-conference games on April 1 and 2, respectively. Paulson said he's been in contact with Merrill about the possibility of moving one or both of those games further south, given the likelihood that ball diamonds north of Wisconsin Highway 29 will not be ready for play in the next week and a half.
"We'd like to try to find something there," he said. "We don't want to cancel these non-conference games have our first games be conference games. I don't think that's ideal for any teams. In our best interest, we'd like to try to get a few games in non-conference before the first (conference) game happens. How do we get those games in? Fields around here, if they're available. If they're not available, we've got to try to look south to get some games in."
In the interim, Paulson said the school is trying to help Mother Nature along by removing some snow from the RHS soccer fields. He said about of the quarter of the field was plowed and that strips of snow have been removed by a snowblower in hopes of promoting a quicker thaw.
The Hodags are scheduled to host Merrill in girls' soccer April 1.
"We might be able to get a game out there. If you think I'm crazy, I understand. But it's supposed to be real nice this weekend," he said earlier this week when forecasted highs for the weekend were originally projected to be in the mid 50s. Forecasters have since backed off on those predictions, with highs now listed as reaching the mid-to-upper 40s.
As of Tuesday, Paulson said snow had not yet been removed from Stafford Field or Pioneer Park, the venues for the RHS baseball and softball teams. Both sites are owned and operated by the City of Rhinelander.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Article comment by:
The football program desperately needs a new attitude, and breath of fresh air.
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