Varsity football coach leaves team … to coach freshman squad

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Most prep sports coaches work for years in an effort to find a head coaching job. Some coaches even toil away for decades without getting the head coaching shot they crave. Yet, in a strange twist, one Arizona coach is reversing the traditional career path, leaving his post as varsity head football coach to take over the freshman team at the same school.

Apache Junction football coach Rich Milligan
Apache Junction football coach Rich Milligan

According to the East Valley Tribune, Apache Junction (Ariz.) High football coach Rich Milligan resigned from his position specifically to take a demotion to serve as head coach of Apache Junction's freshman team. Milligan will be replaced by Gilbert (Ariz.) High offensive coordinator Justin MacDonald.

The move is a strange one not only in terms of traditional roles, but also in terms of Milligan's general success as a head coach. In four years at Apache Junction, Milligan racked up a total record of 26-20, with playoff appearances in all four of his seasons at the helm.

While some might assume that Milligan was ousted due to a push for the job from MacDonald, that doesn't appear to be the case, either. The East Valley Tribune reported that MacDonald and Milligan have worked together in the past, with MacDonald the defensive coordinator during Milligan's first year as Apache Junction coach. There was never a known public beef between the two coaches.

While the ultimate motivation for Milligan's self-imposed demotion may not be known, it is possible that he simply enjoys the challenge of working with and developing freshman players.

If that holistic, developmental motivation is the actual reason for Milligan's move to Apache Junction's freshman program, it's an honorable one, no matter how rare and odd it might seem. If it isn't, then Milligan may have just taken the rather unorthodox step of accepting a significant and public demotion forced on him by a former colleague. Either way, his move has to be considered one of the most unique coaching changes of the football offseason.

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