Is Payson High A ‘Coaching Graveyard?’


Overheard at the Division III state softball tournament last week at Rose Mofford Complex in Phoenix — “Payson High is a coaching graveyard.”

The person speaking wasn’t a disgruntled coach or upset parent, but a respected former educator with deep roots in state athletic circles.

Lending credibility to the statement is Byron Quinlan’s sudden resignation as head coach at the school. That means Payson High School has gone through 11 head football coaches in the past 25 years.

That merry-go-round succession means an average of just over two seasons per coach.

By contrast, in that same span Blue Ridge High School has had only one head football coach— Paul Moro.

And such a long tenure isn’t a fluke: Vern Friedli was at Tucson Amphi for 36 seasons before retiring this spring; Emil Nasser was head coach at Winslow for 34 years; Karl Keifer was at Tempe McClintock for 26 years and Mike Morgan has headed the St. Johns football program for almost 30 years.

In leaving Payson High, neither Quinlan nor any of the other 10 former coaches publically denounced the coaching situation, preferring to not “burn any bridges.”

However, I’ve watched PHS coaches hit the wall repeatedly over the years — and talked to each of them privately about the frustrations of the job. Most have struggled to overcome persistent parental interference and a pervasive lack of administrative support as reasons for throwing in the towel.

Administrative support, most said, includes athletic director, principal, superintendent and others in the district office.

Coaches say that the programs’ success depends on having the support of the whole district, not just one or two.

In resigning from PHS, former coaches have said most parents remain helpful and understanding, but it takes only a few discontented mothers and fathers to create turmoil in the program.

Former coaches agree the number one parental complaint remains playing time for their youngsters.

A recent survey of 2,800 high school coaches by the National High School Coaches Association revealed one of coaches’ top concerns was over involvement of parents.

While Payson seems to outsiders as a pleasant place to live and work, many strong coaching candidates shy away from applying to PUSD, citing low salaries and lots of anguish and second-guessing.

With Quinlan leaving after just two years and a new PHS principal and district superintendent taking over next school year, it will be interesting to see how the vacancy is handled, who will apply for it and who will eventually be hired.

Let’s hope the new administration will make it a priority to hire a top-notch coach with the moxie and experience to lead the Longhorn football program into the future.

Hiring just the right coach and supporting him outright will result in a Longhorn team that will give players a chance to thrive, excel — and have fun doing it.

Our kids deserve such a program.

Hoop camp

Former Lady Longhorn basketball coach Grant Coley is hosting the Third Annual Rim Country Middle School Girls Basketball Camp 9 a.m. to noon June 6 to 8 in Wilson Dome.

The fee for all three days is $25 and $10 for one day.

Three-day campers will receive T-shirts. There will also be prizes and a pizza party.

Payson High and Sandra Day O’Conner varsity players will assist Coley at the camp.

Those who register before May 25 will save $5.

Coley promises the camp will stress fundamentals of the sport.

For more information, call Coley at (928) 978-4116.


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