Published January 25. 2013 4:00AM
A college coach recently asked Jim Buonocore why there were so many openings for high school football coaches across the state this offseason.
"Where do you want me to start?" said Buonocore, the Ledyard High School football coach and athletic director.
There are presently 20 programs looking for new coaches, an abnormally large number of vacancies.
The state has 146 football teams.
One out of every seven programs needs a new coach.
"I think it's a sign of the times," Hand of Madison coach Steve Filippone said. "I think we're going to see more and more of it. When the old guard leaves, school systems will be very lucky if they can find people to coach 20 years or 30 years and add stability and quality to what they're doing."
East Lyme named a new coach this month in Rudy Bagos, who coached the Old Saybrook/Westbrook co-op the last two seasons. He teaches at East Lyme.
Fitch and the St. Bernard/Norwich Tech co-op both need new coaches. Fitch AD Marc Romano said the job will be posted soon. St. Bernard's vacancy has been posted for several weeks.
"That will be posted for another week," St. Bernard AD Brendan Case said. "We've had a lot of good candidates and we're pretty close to naming someone, hopefully."
Mike Emery, who resigned as Fitch coach in December, Buonocore and Filippone all agreed that coaching has become a year-round, full-time job.
"The pay hasn't increased for coaches, but the time demands certainly have," Buonocore said. "It used to be just August to November. Those days are long gone. It's a 12-month job between winter passing leagues, spring passing leagues and spring football. Then there are summer passing leagues, year-round weightlifting, and year-round conditioning.
"In order to run a program consistently and give the kids the best opportunity for success, you have to do all of those things. The bar has been raised. If you want to keep up with other programs, then that's what you have to do."
Emery said: "In-season is more difficult than it used to be. You'd get out of school, go to practice and go home. … (Nowadays) we get out of school and we lift weights, so we wouldn't get on the field until 3:30 or 4. Now you're getting off the field between 6 and 6:30. And then often times you're talking to the coaches about what to do the next day. You end up having to stop at Subway on the way home because you missed dinner."
Most schools want their head coach to work in the school in order to develop better relationships with the players.
Teaching isn't easy. Trying to teach and coach is even trickier.
"The way the state has continued to evolve and the different mandates they put on teachers now and the different requirements to keep their teaching job," Buonocore said, "it's making it difficult (to coach). Especially for young people.
"When a young coach is getting pulled in different directions - their teaching responsibilities and their coaching responsibilities - which one do you think is going to give? The one that puts food on the table."
Buonocore noted that an AAU-type mentality has crept into football, such as 7-on-7 travel passing league teams. There was a time when all a coach had to do to get a kid into college was send them film. Now they have to take kids to a college combine."
"When you're coaching, you're working in the red (financially)," Filippone said. "What's the motivation to coach? Working with kids. There are still some that have it in them, but you hope you're getting the support from the community. A lot of places where these people are leaving, it's because they're not getting that support. (They think), 'Why should I be here pounding it when I'm not getting any support from the community?'"
Coaches haven't made it easy on themselves, either. If a peer is working hard, they feel they must work harder to keep up.
"A coach can learn so much with the Internet, so it's much easier to design a program," Emery said. "You feel that if you don't do that, then you're not doing your job."
Buonocore said: "We created this monster. … When I got home year one (of coaching), I'd drive home, I'd have a bite to eat, and that was it. I was done for the day between 9 or 10 o'clock.
"Now I go home, have a bite to eat, it's 10, and that itch is there. All I have to do is push a button on my iPhone or my iPad and watch film. I don't have to put that tape in my VCR anymore."