Apr. 13—It's been a while since Mike Sinz has been on the Menomonie sidelines.
But now the football coach is coming home.
Menomonie has hired Sinz, currently Eau Claire Memorial's head coach, as its next varsity football coach. District Administrator Joe Zydowsky announced the School District of the Menomonie Area Board of Education approved the hire on Monday.
It's a homecoming for Sinz, who played football at Menomonie and later coached as an assistant there.
Sinz, who is in his fourth season as Memorial's head coach, will replace his former coach, Joe LaBuda. LaBuda retired in February after 32 years in charge, having built the Mustangs into a powerhouse program in the state.
"I think it's a great hire," LaBuda said. "When you've played at the high school and grew up in that community, you have a vested interest. He'll have a pride in being the Menomonie High School football coach that maybe some other coaches wouldn't have had if they were hired. He's going to put his all into it."
In addition to being the football coach, Sinz will be a special education teacher in the district.
Sinz declined to comment on Monday.
He was previously the head coach at Mondovi, a post he held for eight years before heading to Memorial. Including the current alternate fall season, he's led the Old Abes to a 16-17 record and two playoff berths.
He was a captain and starting safety on Menomonie's 1999 state championship team. He graduated from the school in 2001.
"He's been involved as a player in deep playoff runs and a state championship. He understands the tradition," LaBuda said.
Sinz has talked in the past about what it means to be a Menomonie football player. It's a source of pride for the community, something he experienced firsthand.
"Every Friday night, you knew where people in the city of Menomonie were going to be," he told the Leader-Telegram following LaBuda's retirement. "They were going to be at the football game. It was just an expectation. People wanted to be part of the program. They knew what it stood for."
Sinz played college football at UW-Eau Claire and eventually joined the coaching ranks. After serving as an assistant on LaBuda's staff for a season, Sinz got his first head coaching job at Mondovi.
He led the Buffaloes to two Dunn-St. Croix Conference titles and playoff appearances in six of his eight seasons there.
"As a coach, I think he's really enthusiastic and a student of the game," LaBuda said. "He's going to work at it. He's coming in with Big Rivers coaching experience, and that's a big deal. It's a way different deal coaching in the Big Rivers with the competition level that you see. He understands the conference already, the teams and what they do. So I think he'll do a great job."
Sinz is currently in the midst of the alternate fall season with Memorial, which is 1-2 after three games. Zydowsky's announcement said Sinz will take over his new roles next school year.
He has big shoes to fill. Sinz takes the reins of a program which carries the state record for consecutive playoff appearances at 31. Menomonie won five state championships and 22 conference titles under LaBuda's direction. The program never had a losing season under the longtime coach, and reached the state semifinals in half of his seasons in charge.
The Mustangs are yearly contenders in the Big Rivers Conference, and usually carry that success into the postseason. In 2019, the last full season played before the pandemic, the Mustangs reached the Division 3 state semis.
Now Sinz will try to keep the tradition going at his alma mater.