It’s the bane of all new head coaches, what’s the schedule look like.
When new head football coaches are hired, it’s usually in the middle of the two-year contract that teams sign when reclassification occurs so a new head football coach has to play the schedule that was already made before getting a chance to set up his schedule when reclass rolls around again.
Sometimes, the schedule is made during reclass and then a coach is fired or leaves and the new coach has to wait two years before getting a chance to make a schedule.
In either case, it’s an occupational hazard of the job.
“For me it wasn’t a big deal when I took the job because I knew that the schedule was already set,” new Highland Baptist head football coach Rick Hutson said. “It’s kind of like when I came to NISH 20 years ago, the schedule was already set that time as well.
“That’s just part of the process when you evaluate the job. That’s the first thing that someone wants to know when you come into a new job, what’s the schedule looks like.”
There are four new head football coaches in the Teche Area for the 2019 season, Hutson retired from the public school system and left NISH for Highland Baptist; Artie Liuzza took over at Delcambre for the the departed Marc Broussard who went to North Vermilion; assistant coach C.C Paul moved into the head coaching role at Jeanerette after Ananias Johnson was let go and finally Curt Ware took over at NISH for Hutson.
The long-time NISH coach remembered what the schedule looked like when he took over two decades ago.
“We had a nine-team district with Opelousas High when they had Devery Henderson and then our two non-district games were St. Martinville and Ruston,” Hutson said. “I knew that was a tough schedule coming in.
“I think our principal at Highland did the schedule for us this year and I think that it’s a very competitive schedule for us.”
The new HBCS coach feels that in general, coaches wouldn’t turn down a job due to the schedule.
“Unless you went to a school where someone just loaded it up with top teams from around the state and then you’re like there’s now way I can compete with that,” Hutson said. “But I’ve never really come across a situation where someone did that.”
It may not have been that type of scenario, but it was close when Loreauville coach Terry Martin took over for Rhett Peltier last year.
“To be honest, I don’t even know if I looked at the schedule when I was considering the job,” Martin said. “That really had nothing to do with it at all. The schedule didn’t have anything to do with whether I was going to take the job.
“It wasn’t until about a week or two after I took the job that I looked at it (the schedule) and I kind of realized what have I gotten myself into.”
Last year, Loreauville had Vermilion Catholic, coming off of a state title run; Lafayette Christian, who won the Division IV state championship; Welsh, who competed for a state title in Class 2A and Catholic High, which won the Division III state championship the year before.
“The thing is the schedule was already made when I took each of the three head coaching jobs that I’ve had,” Martin said. “It’s just not something you really think about when you’re considering a new job. It’s just part of the deal.”
In some cases, the head coach will talk to his staff about setting up the schedule.
“That’s one thing about Coach Broussard, he came to us and asked, ‘What do you think about playing this team,’” said Liuzza, who is unique among this group in that when he was head football coach at Highland Baptist, the Bears were entering the LHSAA and he got to set his first schedule, he didn’t inherit one.
Now at Delcambre, Liuzza inherits a schedule that was already made.
“I’m not going to say that I had a lot of say in the schedule, but I and the other assistant coaches did have some input. We feel like the first two games that we play, Westminster Christian and Gueydan, I would have put them on the schedule if I was making it.
“Then in week three against Centerville, that game was made because Coach Broussard had known Coach (Mark) Millett for a long time so that was something that he wanted to do and I feel that it’s a good matchup for us as well.”
When Liuzza left Highland for Delcambre, he had already set the football schedule for the next two years but he added that he had a good relationship with assistant coach Patrick Clarkston, who took over, and the two made the schedule together before hand.
But sometimes, the head coach makes the schedule on his own without any input from his assistant coaches.
“I think my first game would have been totally different,” said Paul, whose first game as new JHS head football coach is against Class 5A Lafayette High. “I would have preferred a game where I’m putting in a new program and a new system would have been a little more competitive.
“We’re playing a 5A school with 70 kids and we’re a 2A school with almost Class A numbers. I’m just hoping that we come out healthy and not injured.”
Paul said that when he was assistant coaching at his previous schools, the head coach always asked for input when making the schedule.
“Our non-district schedule we need to find games that are winnable and my head coaches that I worked with always approached it that way,” Paul said.
One thing that none of the new coaches have heard of or are aware of is the “gotcha” scenario where a coach knows he’s leaving and purposely puts together a schedule that is brutal.
“I’m sure it happens or has happened,” said Hutson. “I just haven’t seen it in the 20-plus years that Ive been coaching.”
In the end, dealing with the inherited schedule is something that new coaches learn to deal with.
“That’s the way it is,” said Martin. “You know it’s going to happen. You just have to move on and get used to it and get your program underway until the next time making the schedule comes around.”