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Brett Lee will not be back as the Football Coach at Lima Senior in 2013, meaning Lima Senior High School will have its sixth different Head Coach since Leonard Rush's retirement following the 2000 season.
The five coaches over the last 12 seasons have compiled a record of 20-100. In other words, changing coaches hasn't changed the Spartans' fortunes.
The truth of the matter is that this program started downhill shortly after it reached the zenith of the Division I State Championship in 1996.
In Rush's last 3 seasons Lima was 13-18 and his departure set in motion events that sent the program to the bottom of the barrel.
The decision to hire Matt Kemper to replace Rush proved to be disastrous. He had no connection to the program and tried to install a system that was foreign to the players and it didn't take long for him to lose the team, the fans and the program. Lima went 2-8 and 1-9 under Kemper and the slide was complete.
The subsequent hiring of Bob Wolfe only made things worse. He was too old and old school. Not to mention he had no connection to Lima and had made his bones over several decades as a college coach. His one season was an unmitigated mess that insured the program would remain buried.
There was a brief glimmer of hope in 2004 as Ricky Vaughn was brought back to Lima to be the coach. In his first season, the former Defensvie Coodinator for Coach Rush had the Spartans at 4-1 (3-2 on the field; one win was by forfeit) when it entered league play in the second year of the now-defunct Greater Buckeye Conference.
A 60-6 loss at home to Napoleon quickly dispatched any talk of a resurgence and the Spartans finished that season winless in the conference.
Vaughn was sent away after three seasons and replaced by another Rush disciple, Darnell Collins, and the losing continued. Lima went 2-8 in each of Collins' four seasons.
And under Lee the last two seasons the Spartans were 1-19 and currently own a 17-game losing streak.
I say all of that to say this: It isn't just a coaching problem.
I don't believe the community or the student body cares about football. They are quite obviously unable and/or unwilling to do the work it takes to bulid and maintain a winning program.
Attendance at Lima Stadium is, to say the least, sparse. And most of the fans are people who have been coming to games for a long time. In other words, senior citizens. Not many students, not many parents and, outside of relatives, nobody from the general population of the city.
The fact of the matter is, outside of basketball, Spartan Athletics is a mess. They aren't remotely competitive in any other sport.
Additionally, in the "unintended consequences" department, the move to the "small school" concept within Lima Senior High School exacerbated the problem as the students don't interact with each other as much as they used to.
(As an aside, I'm not saying the "small schools" setup was a bad thing for the district as a whole, I'm simply putting it in context as part of the problem with athletics).
The way I see it the next coach has to be a sort of pied piper with the ability to get more kids to commit to the work it takes to be part of a winning football program. He'll also have to engage a student body and community that has a high level of apathy toward the program.
There's also the issue of conference affiliation. Lima Senior simply cannot compete in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.
When it comes to conference membership, geography has always been a problem for Lima Senior as there aren't any similar size schools close to Lima.
It's different now because Lima Senior's enrollment numbers continue to dip. Its football program is now a Division II program and it probably won't be long until that's the case in all sports.
Lima would be better served to find a new conference or even go back to being independent.
To that end, I'd like to see a serious and open discussion about Lima Senior and Lima Central Catholic being admitted to the Western Buckeye League.
If they were added, the league could be split into two divisions subject to review every so often to adjust the alignment, taking into account the entire picture, not just size of the student body. Also, there should be different alignments for different sports.
I'm not going to pretend that it's a "perfect" fit but I think it would strengthen the WBL and provide, finally, a proper home for the Spartans and T-Birds.
Most WBL schools already play Lima Senior in every sport but football so this isn't some wild stretch to think they can fit in the league.
As for the next football coach at Lima Senior, good luck. You'll need it.