It could be late in the spring before a new Payson High School football coach is selected.
According to PHS athletic director Dave Bradley, the selection process will be lengthy because school officials must wait to learn what type of teaching positions are available to offer coaching candidates.
Teaching positions usually open in early April when contracts are offered district teachers and school budgets are finalized.
"This is not like college where all he (a coach) does is coach. We need to have a teaching position to offer too," Bradley said.
The athletic director anticipates officially opening the position in March and the selection process taking at least two weeks.
The head coaching position became vacant two months ago when former coach Steve Saben was not awarded a contract for next school year. In releasing Saben, Bradley would only say that school officials wanted the program to proceed in a different direction.
Whoever is selected as the new coach, will face the challenge of leading the team into the 4A ranks for the first time in the history of the school.
As a Class 4A school, Payson will compete in the Grand Canyon region with three Flagstaff schools, as well as Mingus and Chinle.
Since the early 1980s, Payson has been a member of the Class 3A (formerly 1A) conference along with other small Arizona schools. Last fall, the PHS enrollment inched past the 3A maximum of 960 students. Since that time, the enrollment has fallen bellow the 3A-4A cutoff, but, Arizona Interscholastic Association rules mandate PHS stays in the 4A ranks for at least two years.
As a member of the 4A conference, the football team could face stiffer competition than it did while in 3A.
"It will be tougher --e'll have to play consistently at a higher level," Bradley said.
The announcement that Saben would not coach next year has generated statewide interest in the coaching position.
"I've had about four phone calls and some others have said they are interested," he said.
Expanded interest in the position is a marked change from two years ago when Saben was first hired. At that time, only Saben and one other candidate applied for the position.
The new coach could come from the current ranks of teachers or be brought in from outside the district, Bradley said.
In selecting a new coach, the athletic director is searching for a candidate who has helped build winning varsity teams.
"We want him to have the experience of having worked in a successful football program," Bradley said. "We also want him to have a good knowledge of football and both sides of the ball.
The AD also is searching for a coach who works well with the community, the newly formed booster club, fellow teachers, the administration and with youngsters.
"We also want a coach who will be here to build the program," Bradley said. "We don't want a coach who is using the job as a stepping stone to get somewhere else."
The selection of the Longhorns next football coach will be done by a board of current PHS coaches, parents, teachers, Bradley and possibly a student representative.