High school coaching carousel continues to spin up north

The topsy-turvy world of high school sports in the Arizona high country continues.

Flagstaff High School just hired a new football coach – the fifth different head coach in six years.  And Payson High School had to replace the men’s head basketball coach after just one season, shortly after the athletic director and head baseball coach called it quits.

Maybe the mile-high rarified air has something to do with it.

Eddie Campos, who was head football coach at Sinagua HS in Flagstaff for 12 years, takes over at Flagstaff HS for Jeremiah Smith, who was at the helm for just two years and compiled 3-7 and 4-6 seasons.

The merry-go-round at Flag began after the 2006 season when the school elected not to renew the contract of head coach, Craig Holland.  Instead, it opted for Erik Affholter, who lasted seven games before resigning in 2007.  Pat Harlow picked up the reins for the final four games of the season, but decided he didn’t want to continue and resigned just weeks before the 2008 season started.

Smith took over after Harlow, but his job as safety and security officer at the school proved to be his undoing.  Since his job at the school is considered a classified position, it meant the administration would have to pay time-and-a-half for any hours over 40.  A high school coach puts in long hours, which meant it priced Smith out of the coaching job.

So the Eagles get ready for another coaching change.

Meanwhile, at Payson High School, the latest departure is just another jolt to a school turned upside down.  Late in the last school year, cuts in the school’s administrative staff resulted in the dismissal of the principal, assistant principal, and athletic director – and the head baseball coach, Jerry Daniels.

Now, basketball head coach Jared Swanson has left after just one season.  And he didn’t go quietly.

Swanson, who was a junior college All-American and an all-conference selection at Minnesota State at Moorhead, took over the program from Kenny Hayes last summer.  He said he was leaving after just one year to return to college to earn a master’s degree and try to get into college coaching.

But on his way out the door, he made it pretty clear that he wasn’t happy about his short stint on the Longhorns’ bench.  He also reiterated his dissatisfaction with the dismissals of the athletic director and administrators.

In an article in the Payson Roundup he said he was “disappointed with the state of public education in Payson and around the state.”  He went on to say that he felt “it would be foolhardy to stay in teaching in Payson and Arizona; there is no stability in the classroom or athletics.”

He might have a point there regarding athletics.  If you look around the state at actions being taken by high school administrations, there is a pattern taking shape of coaches being dismissed – even those who have been with the same program for many years.

At Desert Vista HS in Phoenix, boys basketball coach Doug Harris was dismissed after seven years and many successful seasons; Curt LeBlanc at Queen Creek HS lost his job after nine years, taking the Bulldogs to the state playoffs seven of those nine years; Jim Jones, who was at the helm of the Red Mountain HS program for 22 years, was nudged to the door and encouraged to resign; and Tim McBurney was let go at Basha HS in Chandler after starting the program from scratch eight years ago.

So now, Bill Goodwin steps in at Payson HS to hopefully become the start of some stability in one of the school’s major revenue-producing programs.

He was hired just four days ago in a special meeting of the district’s governing board, coming into the Payson job from an administrative position in the Apache Junction School District.

From 1990-95 Goodwin coached at Kearney-Ray in Class 2A, where he took the school to the state tournament each of the five years he was there, winning the state title in 1992.  He left Kearney to take over the basketball program at Lindenwood University in Missouri.

Goodwin will have his work cut out for himself.  In addition to the personnel shake-ups due to budget constraints, the sports participation fees at Payson HS have also skyrocketed, going from $60 per sport last year to $200 for the first sport this year, followed by $60 per sport for additional sports.

It will be interesting to see what the 2010-11 school year brings in the sports programs in the high country.

Hopefully, the beginning of some stability.