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Coach to leave football, fees behind

September 24, 2010

Tired of the baggage associated with being a head football coach, John O’Grady will retire after this season. O’Grady, 56, has been the head football coach for 22 years, making him the longest tenured football coach at UW-River Falls.

Some of the aspects that have deflated O’Grady’s passion for the job include paperwork and adhering to some of the policies and procedures that the UW-System enforces.

“For the vast majority of my career I have had a passion for coaching,” O’Grady said in a prepared statement. “I still do, but I am not passionate about all of the other aspects of my job that do not have much to do with coaching. As a result it is time for me to go.”

One policy O’Grady said he finds irritating involves an additional fee the football pro- gram has to pay. O’Grady helps run a summer football camp at UWRF, which he said is one of the most successful camps in the state. Two years ago, around 350 student athletes participated in the football camp, but due to the success, O’Grady said the University began charging approximately $2,000 for the use of the intramural fields.

“This is a policy I disagree with. I have taken camps off of this campus with good success because of these new policies. I can go to another site and be charged less and people at those places really enjoy having us there,” O’Grady said.

The Falcons had their first home game Saturday, Sept. 19, and O’Grady expressed disappointment about the team’s appearance on the field.

“Could anyone see the yard line paintings,” said O’Grady in an e-mail. “This was our first home game and it looked like a junior high school game field!”

Patrick Houlton, 21, who plays the tight end position, is in his fourth year playing Falcon football. Having been coached by O’Grady (who Houlton calls OG) for four years now, his gratitude for the coach is apparent.

“O’Grady has been here so long that he’s become a big part of this campus and this program, and a lot of guys admire and respect him,” Houlton said. “Although he seems rough around the edges sometimes, O’Grady is a coach you can trust and rely on, whether it’s with football, academics or personal issues. I know myself and the rest of the seniors have loved playing for O’Grady these past 4 years.”

According to Athletic Director Roger Ternes, O’Grady is the most stabilizing presence in football or any other sport on this campus in the last 22 years, and “his presence will be felt for years to come.”

In 1995, O’Grady was named the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference coach of the year. O’Grady’s teams throughout the years have a record of 78-68-3 in WIAC play. In 2008, O’Grady was inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. The credentials for such an honor include coaching record, longevity and service to the WFCA.

O’Grady, who played football for the Falcons as a linebacker from 1972-1975, has been affiliated with UWRF for 37 years. O’Grady started out his coaching career at UWRF as an assistant coach of linebackers, secondary and special teams from 1976-1980. Over the next several years, O’Grady held various coaching positions for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Kent State University in Ohio and Miami University in Ohio. O’Grady returned in 1989 and has held the head coaching position ever since.

Hiring a new head coach will entail the usual procedures: writing up a job description and setting up a search and screen committee that will include a cross section of faculty, staff, students and community representatives. Ternes is anticipating around 50-100 applicants for the job. However, there may be added hype and pressure in picking the new head coach.

“The position‚ next to the chancellor, is one of the highest profile positions [at this university],” Ternes said.

According to the 2009-2010 budget, O’Grady’s salary for coaching was $44,414 and he earned $14,805 for teaching classes in the Universities health and human performance department.

ome of the qualities that Ternes said he is looking for in the next head football coach are passion, high energy, competitiveness and an outstanding recruiter, because a football team is “only as good as the students who play for you.”

O’Grady said he would still like to coach football, just not as a head coach. He said he is thinking about coaching football at the University of Dubuque in Iowa as their assistant head coach. O’Grady’s last day will be Dec. 31.