NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Add North Ridgeville to the list of schools that will be in the market for a new football coach.
After 16 years and two stints as the Rangers coach, Jeff Riesen was informed last week that his contract would not be renewed at the end of the school year. Riesen compiled a 105-52-2 record at the school and finished all but one season (2012) with a winning record.
He also guided North Ridgeville to its only playoff appearance in 2009.
In a 32-year career, which includes stops at Avon Lake, Amherst and Elyria high schools, Riesen has a 203-102-2 record. He picked up the 200th win of his coaching career in Week 5 this season when North Ridgeville defeated Rocky River 76-48.
He also picked up his 100th win at North Ridgeville with a 34-21 over Westlake in Week 1.
“I have a lot respect for what Jeff did for football at North Ridgeville and across Lorain County,” first-year North Ridgeville athletic director Matt Yunker said. “It’s just time to move in a different direction. It was nothing that Jeff did wrong this year or nothing that he failed to do. After the season it was just decided it would be best to take a different approach moving forward.”
After going 1-9 in 2012, the Rangers went 6-4 this season, closing with three consecutive wins against Bay, Elyria Catholic and Lakewood.
“I want to thank all of the players and coaches who have been a part of this program with me for 16 years,” said Riesen, who retired from teaching in 2004. “And the booster club and the parents who have been so supportive over the years. I am grateful because North Ridgeville gave me the first opportunity to be a head coach in 1980 and they gave me another opportunity in 2005.”
Riesen said he was caught off guard when he was told of the school’s decision.
“I am disappointed,” he said. “I respect their right to make this decision if they feel it’s necessary but they really didn’t give a reason why. I asked them if I did something wrong and they said no.”
Riesen waited until after the team’s banquet Sunday to tell the players he would not be returning. He broke the news to them on Tuesday.
“I think the players were surprised and saddened,” Yunker said. “Many of them looked at coach Riesen like a father figure. He’s the only coach they’ve ever had at North Ridgeville.”
Yunker will begin the process of accepting applications for the position beginning next week with the hope of having a new coach in place before the students go on break for the winter holidays.
In the meantime, Yunker said the assistant coaches are running the offseason conditioning program so that the players “don’t miss a beat.”
Riesen said the hardest part of the past week was talking to his former players on Tuesday.
“I’m an emotional guy so it was hard to get the words out,” he said. “I wish them all the best in the future. In fact, my last words to them were, “I love you guys.”
After 39 seasons on the sidelines as either a head coach or an assistant, Riesen isn’t sure he’s ready to hang up his whistle just yet.
“Right now I’m going to take some time and enjoy my family, but if someone was to call about a coaching position I would listen,” he said. “I’m not rushing to send out resumes but I think I still have a lot to offer to a football program in some coaching capacity.”