By Aaron Lommers and Kevin Brown Herald Writers
Archbishop Murphy High School announced Thursday that Dave Ward will not be back as the school’s head football coach.
Ward was placed on administrative leave in January after sending an email to parents outlining changes he said were needed in the program. Ward wrote in the email that the first step in a “much needed change of direction” was to ask for the resignation of assistant coach Jeff Schmidt.
Ward was placed on leave three days later because the email had not been authorized by the school’s board of directors, Archbishop Murphy president Bob Graby said in January.
Schmidt also was placed on administrative leave.
At the time, athletic director Jerry Zander said the decision of whether or not Ward would return as head coach would be made after an evaluation of the program. On Thursday, Zander announced the school is looking for a new head coach.
Zander said he made the decision Wednesday and informed Ward on Thursday.
“Based on the review and recommendation of our Athletic Advisory Committee, I am moving forward with the hiring of a new head football coach for the Archbishop Murphy football program,” Zander said in a statement released by the school.
Ward said the news “was not easy to hear.”
“It’s difficult to be told something like that,” he said. “I’m trying not to get emotional about it and say anything. At this point it wouldn’t do me any good to say any more than that.”
Zander said the decision had nothing to do with the football team’s performance on the field.
“Obviously, it wasn’t about wins and losses,” he said. “This was more about our program as a whole and meeting our mission as a school.”
Ward served as head coach of the Wildcats for four seasons. He led Archbishop Murphy to four Class 2A state semifinal appearances and two title games. The Wildcats lost to Lynden 17-16 in the state championship game in December. They finished the season 12-2.
“It was a pretty good run for four years,” Ward said. “We did some good things. It was the right place for me and I hope kids felt the same way. For now, if I’m not in their plans, than I wish the best for the players in the future.”
Zander said the process of looking for Ward’s replacement likely will begin Monday. He said he hopes to have a new coach in place by the Easter break. The new coach will be allowed to pick his coaching staff.
In the statement released by the school Zander said: “Our new head coach will be a clear team leader who communicates well with players and their parents. The coach will understand the mission of the school and how football helps us achieve that mission. Players will be treated fairly and equally. He will hire assistant coaches who are committed to those same expectations.”
Ward said he plans to continue teaching at Archbishop Murphy.
“I’m really enjoying my teaching job here,” Ward said. “My plans are to teach school.”
Ward, who guided the Oak Harbor Wildcats to the Class 4A state football title in 2006, said coaching elsewhere is a possibility.
“I definitely think there may be more coaching in my future,” he said.