Roller coaster ride ends

McGee resigns after 17 years as Central's FB coach

Central High School football coach Vern McGee cared more about teaching football players that his won-loss record. The 17-year coach resigned from his position Wednesday, but will stay at the school as chairman of the physical education department.

Vern McGee was told before he became a high school head football coach that he would experience highs and lows.

During his 17 seasons as Central High School’s head coach, McGee had highs, reaching the Class 4A state playoffs his first two seasons, including a state runner-up finish in 1997.

He also experienced the lows, including an 0-10 season this fall.

Central announced Wednesday that McGee resigned as football coach. He’ll remain at Central as the chairman of the physical education department and assistant baseball coach.

“Somebody told me a long time ago, before I became a head coach, that high school football is like a roller coaster,” McGee said Wednesday afternoon.

“You’ll have great years when you’ll be on top, and you’re gonna go down to the bottom and come right back up again. And for the most part, you see that in most programs.

“The last three years haven’t been good wins-wise, but I’ve had fun with these kids.”

McGee, 48, graduated from Central in 1982, and after playing at the University of Wyoming, he became an assistant with the Warriors in 1990.

“He is the epitome of teaching young men what life is supposed to be about,” Central Athletic Director Randy Powell said. “He teaches more than just football, and unfortunately, that is a lost art.

“Winning high school football games in the big scheme of things is not what it’s all about.”

McGee took over as head coach in 1996 and led the Warriors to the Class 4A quarterfinals, losing to state runner-up Greeley Central.

His 1997 team, with current Cedaredge coach Brandon Milholland at quarterback, Nate Campbell at running back and Rodney Pierce at wide receiver, reached the Class 4A state title game, losing a shootout to Hinkley.

Milholland returned as an assistant with McGee before being hired at Cedaredge three years ago.

McGee scouted the Limon-Hotchkiss game last week for Milholland and plans to attend Saturday’s Class 1A semifinal game and root for his former QB.

Injuries decimated Central’s teams the past two seasons, when the Warriors went a combined 2-18.

“I told one of my coaches that the last time I remember this many kids hurt was Jerry Pitzer’s last year,” McGee said. “Half of our starters were out, and we tried to work through it. That’s when I became head coach the next year, so it’s ironic that it’s worked this way.”

Despite the rash of injuries, the Warriors battled, taking a 13-0 lead against Durango before giving up 27 straight points and losing in the seventh game of the season. After the loss to Durango, though, the Warriors gave up an average of 46 points in the final three games and scored only 12.

Central dropped from Class 5A to 4A this season, but still had a rugged nonconference schedule. They lost to Longmont, ranked No. 2 in preseason polls, but lost by only one touchdown, and dropped close games to D’Evelyn and Green Mountain.

Also on the schedule was Wheat Ridge, which is playing in the Class 4A quarterfinals this week.

“He always plays the hand he’s dealt, never complained,” Powell said. “He does the best he can with what he’s got and doesn’t make excuses. He teaches the right way to compete.

“The kids at Central High School love him. He’s awesome. He’s always in the halls greeting kids when they show up in the morning. When you think Central, you think Vern McGee.”

Powell said he won’t wait until the end of the school year, when administrators know what teaching openings they have for next school year, to hire a coach.

“If I had the right candidate tomorrow, I’d hire him,” Powell said. “We want to get it filled; that’s how important we think it is.”

McGee said he’s had a week to get used to the idea of not coaching, and he is starting to think of things he’ll do to fill all those hours reserved for football.

“Sonya says I need to find a hobby,” he said of his wife, Sonya McGee, the athletic secretary at Central.

“I hope I can go hunting with my dad and my son, go out and enjoy it,” he said. “Last year my goal was to go the mountains in the summer 10 times to go fishing. I went once. I love fishing and hunting and that kind of thing, and I’ll finally have time to do that.”


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