By Chris Harlan, Tribune-Review
Former North Allegheny coach Jim Rankin, who was hired Monday as Butler’s new football coach, doesn’t have warm and fuzzy feelings when he thinks about returning to the Quad North Conference, where he spent nearly two decades.
“There are too many good coaches,” Rankin said soon after accepting the job. “… It’s not going to be any box of chocolates, to tell you the truth. There’s no comfort there. In fact, it makes you a little queasy. You aren’t just going to line up, throw a halfback pass and win. It just doesn’t work that way.”
Rankin listed the conference’s coaches during our conversation, making note of the state championship game trips the group had taken. Rankin adds another, having won a PIAA title in 1990.
“They are all really good coaches and dedicated football people,” Rankin said. “They have great staffs. We have to build ourselves up to that kind of situation.”
Notes from our conversation:
– What the program needs next is a signature win, Rankin said. “You have to beat somebody you’re not supposed to beat. Usually, that’s the game that turns it around for you. I remember in Ellwood City in 1983, we had beaten some teams – not many – but when we beat Beaver (coached by Pat Tarquinio) that was our signature win. … You need that one win that says: ‘Wow, we’re competitive with the best teams.’”
– Rankin’s initial concern about the job wasn’t the Tornado’s string of losing seasons. Rankin, who lives in the Brighton Heights section of Pittsburgh’s North Side, was concerned about the commute: “My reservations were always the distance. I checked it out whenever I was interviewed a couple times. (Monday night) I went during rush hour and it was about 40 minutes from the Camp Horne exit and that was during a busy time of day.” But a long commute is nothing new for Rankin: “I’ve always had a headache,” he said, with a laugh. “When I worked at Fox Chapel, I lived in Jeannette and that was a trek. When I first went to North Allegheny, I lived in Ellwood and that was a trek. I just can’t seem to get a backyard job.”
– Rankin said he feels comfortable in Butler: “It’s kind of a big town. I was in Ellwood City and I grew up in Jeannette, so I’m comfortable with that atmosphere.
– Rankin on the facilities: “They put a great investment into their facilities, their stadium, their field house and their weight rooms. They got a new turf field. Usually you have to win to get that and they did it just because they want to get better – and that impressed me. I thought that would be a good place to coach.”
– When will he start? “I’m going to meet the kids relatively soon, I hope. I want to get our offseason program started, but I want to let the spring sports start first. I want the kids to run track or play baseball or whatever they’re playing.”