When is a coach of the year not really the coach of the year?
That’s a question coaches and school officials around the White Mountains and Rim Country are asking themselves.
While the answer is muddled, such an occurrence can unfold when an official makes a mistake in coach of the year balloting and seemingly compounds it with a baffling misinterpretation of how voting ties are broken.
Just such a faux pas occurred in February at the conclusion of the Class 3A East Region wrestling tournament held at Blue Ridge High School in Lakeside.
There, former Payson High School wrestling coach and ex-Frontier Elementary School physical education teacher Richard Ormand, now an in-school suspension monitor at BRHS, was serving as a stand-in tournament director for the East Region finals.
At the conclusion of the day, the five coaches from the East teams turned in their coach of the year ballots to Ormand.
Although it is not completely clear what happened in the counting process, sources say PHS coach Travis Koppenhafer was chosen coach of the year by a 3-2 margin over Round Valley’s Rand Baker. But the honor went to Baker after a series of mix-ups by Ormand who on Feb. 22 sent a letter of explanation to coaches and athletic directors.
PHS school officials would not immediately share the contents of a letter and Ormand would say only “a miscalculation was discovered and rectified.”
However, the Payson Roundup has learned that Ormand made the mistake of believing as tournament director he had the option of casting a ballot for coach of the year.
Several veteran prep officials and coaches label that decision a blunder, saying there is no precedence or regulation that allows tournament directors to cast votes for coach of the year.
In Ormand’s letter of explanation he wrote that his vote, “created a tie between the Payson and Round Valley coach(es).”
With that tie, Ormand oddly used what he calls, a “seeding criteria,” to break the tie.
The criteria, which apparently centered on the RVHS wrestling team having a higher region tournament seed than PHS, resulted in Baker receiving the coaching honor.
Not soon after that announcement was made, a “Congratulations to Coach Rand Banker ... the 3A East Wrestling Coach of the Year,” banner was posted on the RVSD Web site.
Days later, Ormand wrote in his letter of explanation that the coach of the year issues had been brought to his attention and he had discussed them with BRHS school administrators.
“I can see clearly where I made the wrong judgment calls,” he wrote.
So, the region’s coach of the year honor should have been bestowed on Koppenhafer rather than Baker.
Ormand has not shied away from taking responsibility for the mistake, writing if he had not voted, there would not have been a tie and the Payson coach would have won without controversy.
He also wrote that he now realizes he should have discussed the voting issues with coaches and administrators rather than making the decisions himself.
In his letter of explanation, he said he wished to personally apologize and take complete responsibility for the confusion and embarrassment.
Payson school officials and Koppenhafer would not comment on the gaffe.
Ex PHS coach
Ormand resigned as PHS head wrestling coach in 2006. In his three years at the helm of the program, he led the Longhorns to two Grand Canyon Region championships, an East Region title, a Class 3A state runner-up showing and two fourth-place finishes in the 4A state tournament.
He also coached 17 wrestlers who became state placers, five of whom were individual weight class champions, and was a two-time coach of the year in the Grand Canyon Region.
Upon resigning, the former coach gave the upcoming birth of his third child as his reason for stepping down.