Football: Longtime Douglas coach Rippee steps down, position could be filled by end of the week
It’s been a long ride for Mike Rippee but, after 34 years, he decided it was time for it to come to an end.
The longtime Douglas High football coach announced his resignation this week after 27 seasons at the helm, leaving as the program’s winningest coach with a record of 139-125.
“It’s been a real tough decision, a very emotional one,” Rippee said. “When something has become such a part of your life, it’s hard to walk away.
“I just felt like this was the time to do it. I’m coming to the end of my career in education, it’s hard to put a finger on it. I just felt that I’ve been coaching for 35 years. I still have a passion for it.
“I have enjoyed every minute of it. Another old coach told me once that I’d know it was time when it was.”
The Tigers were coming off a 6-6 season during which they strung together an impressive five-game win streak down the stretch, picked up their first playoff win since 2004 and advanced to the regional semifinals.
Rippee raised the 88-year-old program’s all-time winning percentage by 36 points (from .424 to .460) in 27 years.
In Douglas’ early years in the large-school classification, he built a once-successful 2A program back from the ground up after it went 4-30 between 1983 and 1986.
The Tigers posted their first winning record (5-3) under Rippee in 1988, his fourth year, and began to come into its own in 1991 and ’92, going 12-6. It was in 1991 that the Tigers picked up one of the biggest upsets in program history, knocking off then perennial powerhouse Wooster 14-10 in Minden.
Douglas had back-to-back 5-4 seasons in ’94 and ’95, and then clinched the school’s first large-school regional playoff berth with a 7-3 1996 season.
From that point, the Tigers went 100-70 over his last 16 seasons.
“We just kept our noses to the grindstone all that time,” Rippee said. “I had so many tremendous assistants along the way, guys like Steve Wilcox, Bob Bateman and Ernie Monfiletto in particular. Never let let anyone tell you it’s about the head coach. You are nothing if you don’t have good assistants.
“We just kept building the confidence up and the kids bought into it over time.
The key was getting kids to believe they could win and compete at this level. We got to that point eventually.”
Douglas High principal Marty Swisher said Rippee helped build a program of integrity and respect over the years.
“(He) instilled hard work, hard hitting and sportsmanship as part of a winning program that has the respect of all of our opponents,” Swisher said. “We will miss his direct influence on our football program, but we know that he will always be part of our Tiger family and willing to support our school when we need him to do so.”
Swisher said the school is hoping to fill the vacant head coaching position by the end of the week and will be looking first within its own teaching staff.
“Our school district policy is clear about how we are to proceed in filling vacancies for stipended extracurricular positions, such as a head coaching position,” Swisher said. “We should seek qualified candidates from our school’s teach staff first, so we are in the process of doing that. We are confident that we will have very qualified members among our teaching staff who will be interested in this great opportunity.”
Rippee said he would make a decision later this spring on whether he was going to continue teaching.
“I’m only capable of one big decision at a time,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t multi-task well.”
Swisher expressed gratefulness for Rippee’s time and dedication to the school.
“On behalf of the Douglas High School community, I want to thank coach Rippee for his 34 years of dedication to all of our student athletes and other students who have participated over the years to make the Douglas High football program one of integrity and respect.”