After three seasons as head football coach at Tabor College, Mike Gottsch has submitted his letter of resignation and announced to his team that he will step down after the final game of the season, to be played Saturday against University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kan.
"I'm looking out for the best interest of the football program, to let Tabor College start the search for a new head coach and hopefully get a very qualified candidate in here very quickly," Gottsch said. "I wanted to let them get another coach in here as soon as possible."
A nationwide search for a new head football coach will begin immediately, led by a three-member search committee comprised of Tabor President Dr. Jules Glanzer, Vice President for Athletics Rusty Allen, and Professor of Business Administration and Faculty Athletic Representative Dr. Norman Hope.
"We will immediately post the opening and invite applications," Allen said. "At the same time our search committee will identify and attempt to recruit who we believe are outstanding candidates for the position. Ideally, we would have a new coach in place no later than December 1. A quick transition leads to new energy with current players and high retention. Further, a quick transition gives the program a chance to have a strong recruiting year."
Although the Bluejays are 0-9 this season and have a combined 3-26 record under Gottsch's leadership, Allen acknowledged the positive things Gottsch and his players accomplished, particularly off the field.
"Coach Gottsch has a strong work ethic and I have deep appreciation for the time and energy he has given to the Tabor football program," Allen said. "Coach Gottsch expected his players to perform, not only on the field but in the classroom, and supported learning in multiple ways. Mike is a man of God. Like all of our coaches, his focus on helping young men come to know and grow in Christ is something that sets the Tabor athletic department and the football program apart."
Tabor College President Jules Glanzer said he had "very mixed emotions about Mike leaving us."
"Coach Gottsch is a person of integrity with impeccable character," Glanzer said. "He was dedicated, determined, and gave it his all. He loved his players and was concerned about their academics and spiritual life in addition to their athletic ability."
Gottsch informed his players he was stepping down prior to practice Wednesday afternoon.
"I thanked them for their effort and hard work, and for trusting and believing in me and for coming here," Gottsch said. "I also let them know that it would be wise for them to stay put and not go looking for greener pastures. When I got here this new [Joel H. Wiens] stadium was a pipe dream, and now that it's here I believe it will help with retention and recruiting. I really believe that the guys who are here know they have a special, special facility.
"I've built some fantastic relationships with players and parents of players," Gottsch added, "and I'm really, really going to miss going out to the practice field and working with them every day. Hopefully they've been taught, in addition to becoming better football players, how to become better men."
Gottsch also thanked his assistant coaches and student assistants who sacrificed so much to help the program.
"My assistant coaches, Jake Schenk and Edward King, really need to be thanked publically," Gottsch added. "Their ability to stay positive and promote the mission of the program has been to me unbelievable."
Allen also met with the football players, encouraging them to finish the season strong.
"I thanked them for their hard work and the strong character they have demonstrated through a difficult season," Allen said. "I made it clear that we will be working hard to get new leadership in place for them as quickly as possible and let them know that my door is always open if they have questions or want to discuss the future of the football program at Tabor College.
"We have a number of good players on our football team," Allen added. "They have demonstrated character and class and we are determined to provide them with hope for a much improved season next year."
Looking back over the past three years, Gottsch sees many off-the-field victories.
"The overall grades of our players and our team grade point average has been pretty good and has gone up every year," he said. "We've worked hard at academics by creating study tables and helping them with what's most important, which is academics.
"I believe we've done a good job with recruiting, also, bringing in 40 to 45 new players each season," he added. "But winning is it. I've won three games in three years and that's all that most people see. But progress was being made where the normal person doesn't see."
Gottsch, a 1989 Tabor grad and former standout quarterback on the Bluejay football team, says he received constant encouragement and support from his former teammates, especially from Dr. Craig Ratzlaff, a current Tabor board member, and his father, Marvin, a former board member of the college.
"I want everyone to know that I received unconditional support from Craig and Marvin throughout our unsuccessful seasons in the win-loss column, and they never wavered," Gottsch said. "They would call me after every disappointing loss, to perk me up. That meant a lot."
Gottsch added that the people of Hillsboro had welcomed his wife, Liz, and their three children to the community, making it difficult to think about leaving.
"Our kids are settled in and doing excellent in school," Gottsch said. "They've made many friends, and fit in extremely well."
Liz, also a 1989 Tabor grad, has been most supportive of all, he added.
"Tabor will always be special to me because I found my helpmate here," Gottsch said. "Liz reminds me where my strength lies. It wasn't too long ago when I said to her, ‘This isn't how the story was supposed to go' and she reminded me that I'm not the author of the story. She said, ‘God is writing the story, and He has great things ahead.'"
According to Allen, the new head football coach will have a great deal of discretion as to who the assistant coaches will be. Coach Gottsch and Assistant Coach King, who also resigned, have contracts that end on December 31 and each will finish their teaching loads for the first semester.
Assistant Coach Schenk, whose contract runs through June 30, 2010, will serve as an interim point person for the football program in terms of recruiting and off-season conditioning. He also has responsibilities in the classroom through the remainder of the academic year.
The Tabor College athletic facilities received a major facelift this past year with the new Joel H. Wiens Stadium. According to Allen, the new football coach will be expected to produce a program worthy of the new stadium, which is designed to expand the Christian influence of the college.
"We embrace the concept that excellence enhances ministry in the Tabor athletic department," Allen said. "Excellence is a strong piece of our mission. We have demonstrated our commitment to excellence with the construction of the Joel H. Wiens Stadium.
"Athletics in general and the football program specifically will be expected to be characterized by excellence," Allen added. "We have set goals for everything from the integration of faith on the team, to team grade point average for the year, to our desire to compete for the conference championship."
According to Glanzer, football will continue to play an important role at Tabor College.
"Football is a very unusual sport," Glanzer said. "The success of the football team seems to affect the entire campus. It is strange, but a winning season seems to make the rest of the semester just go better. Because many of our students are involved in football, retention becomes an important part of our budget. Hiring the right person is very important.
"But I am confident that with our new facilities and with a young and talented team returning, we should not have a difficult time finding an outstanding new head coach," Glanzer added.
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