Veteran ADs who have stepped down:
Back to teaching/coaching
Jerry Amstutz, South Side
Lee Etzler, Churubusco
Ron Gremaux, Heritage
Rob Irwin, Whitko
Kevin Lavanchy, Southern Wells
Steve Rhoades, Garrett
Steve Townsend, Wayne
John Ankenbruck, Homestead
Becky Freeman, East Noble
Dave Fulkerson, Warsaw
Dave Hey, Carroll
Andy Johns, Bishop Dwenger
Bill Kerbel, New Haven
Mike Hawley, Snider
Mary Hurley, Wawasee
Larry Merica, Heritage
Mike McMillen, Northrop
Denny Miesle, Woodlan
Joe Santa, Warsaw/Huntington North
FORT WAYNE — Churubusco football coach Lee Etzler remembers his father, longtime Woodlan football coach Leland Etzler, coming home about midnight after a day of teaching, coaching and closing up an ice cream shop in Woodburn. The elder Etzler did that for the better part of four decades.
Etzler didn’t want that for himself. He stepped down as Churubusco’s athletic director this year to concentrate on teaching, coaching and his family, which includes two young kids.
“It is hard to imagine,” Etzler said of coaching as long as his dad. “I have been at ’Busco now 10 years, and that seems like a long time. There is more time commitment than ever, and money is not being put into those types of things and it is being taken away from those types of things. It is hard to sell your family on justifying doing that for a long period of time. I can’t imagine doing anything for that long of a time, especially being a football coach.”
And he isn’t the only one. Coaches and athletic directors aren’t lasting as long as they once did because of several factors, including time commitment, family and economic issues.
“The climate of education is different now than what it used to be,” Etzler said. “There are more demands on teachers, and more demands on coaches, so it is a lot more stressful situation than what it used to be.
“As an AD, it is basically like football season all year-round. Doubling as football coach and athletic director spreads yourself a little thin. You want to be in a position where you are successful. I felt like I wasn’t as good of a football coach because I was an athletic director, and I didn’t think I was as good as an athletic director because I was a football coach.”
Steve Rhoades at Garrett and Kevin Lavanchy at Southern Wells, among others, have returned to the classroom this year after several years as athletic director.
“There’s at least a 30 percent turnover in ADs every year,” said Adams Central’s Rick Minnich, who is entering his 18th year as athletic director. “There are hours and hours that are not worth the compensation you are getting. They see that and see going back home at night and just be a teacher.”
Minnich, 60, stepped down as football coach three years ago after 35 years of coaching as an assistant and head coach.
“When you turn 60, you get tired,” he said. “I look back at my time I was teaching and AD and football coach in my 40s, and I don’t know how I ever did that. I got to the point I got worn out. I got to the point that I retired from coaching because I couldn’t physically take it anymore. Maybe I couldn’t have lasted as long as football coach because I couldn’t have done all the things they do in the summertime.”
There are exceptions to the longevity as a coach or athletic director or both. Bishop Luers’ Matt Lindsay is entering his 26th year as a head football coach and his 21st year as athletic director.
“The guys I know who have done this and then said, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ is because of the amount of hours you have to put in,” Lindsay said. “My situation is very unique. My wife has been very supportive, my kids went to Luers so they were here with me a lot and were involved in athletics, so that helped. I love sports, and I love my school, so that’s why I have been doing it as long as I have.”
The Doerffler twins have been at it for almost 40 years. Dean and Dale Doerffler have been football coaches and are now athletic directors – Dean at Concordia and Dale at North Side. Dean has been doing it for 21 years, with Dale coming in at 17 years.
“It’s a difficult job,” said Dean, who was also the athletic director at Northrop. “High school sports are changing with things like club sports. The demand on every sports’ time is increasing. At Concordia we share athletes, and the emphasis is now on specialization.”