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Archive for Saturday, May 22, 1999

LHS FOOTBALL SEARCH

May 22, 1999

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Lawrence High won't be naming a head football coach this weekend.

"We're in Phase Two," LHS principal Dick Patterson said. "We're asking more detailed questions to the applicants and it will be Tuesday, at the earliest, before that phase is completed."

Patterson wants to have a coach named by the end of the school year. Seniors' final day of classes is next Friday. The rest of the students will end classes the first week of June.

LHS officials have interviewed five candidates -- one from within the district and four from outside.

Dirk Wedd, an LHS assistant since 1990, is the lone in-district candidate. Wedd, also the Lions' head baseball coach, was an all-state center for LHS in 1969 before playing collegiately at Emporia State. The Lions are 84-17 and have won five Class 6A state football titles since 1990.

Here are the out-of-district candidates:

  • Mark Bliss, Conway Springs High head coach.
  • Paul Brown, Shawnee Mission Miege High head coach.
  • Mark Luedtke, who already has resigned as Emporia High head coach.
  • Shane Taylor, defensive coordinator at Liberal High.

None of the four has been offered the job.

"I made some harsh demands, so maybe that's why I haven't heard anything," Bliss said. "My wife is a teacher and I want her to have a job and I also want to bring two of my assistants."

Bliss has compiled a 24-1 record in two seasons at Conway Springs, located 40 miles southwest of Wichita. The Cardinals finished 13-0 and won the Class 3A state championship last fall.

Earlier in the week, Bliss said LHS officials requested Conway Springs game tapes. The three other out-of-district coaches said they hadn't been asked to send game tapes.

All the candidates said Lawrence High's tradition attracted them to the position.

"With Lawrence High's mystique and tradition, that job would be enticing to any coach who wears a whistle," Bliss said. "I was thrilled to get an interview. I didn't formally apply. I called and inquired about the job."

LHS is conducting its first search for a football coach with a second high school in town. Free State opened in the fall of 1997 and the Lions are 9-10 since. The Lions lost a total of 10 games from 1988 to 1996.

"If Lawrence was still intact, it'd be the most inviting job in America," Bliss said. "With the two high schools, it's a challenge and I'd love that challenge."

Bliss is content at Conway Springs, which produced one winning season in the seven years prior to his arrival.

"I wouldn't be disheartened if I didn't get the job," he said. "I'm very happy here."

Being passed over for the LHS job in 1990 didn't deter Brown from applying again.

"I'm still very much interested," Brown said. "Lawrence is a great community."

Brown has coached the past 15 years at Miege. He spent three years at Kansas City Turner before taking over at Miege. He received an interview for the vacant LHS position in 1990 before school officials selected Dick Purdy.

Luedtke, who resigned in January as Emporia's head coach after going 5-4 last fall, has an overall record of 54-26.

"I'm certainly interested," Luedtke said of the LHS job.

Luedtke guided the Spartans to Class 6A state playoff appearances in 1996 and '97. He coached three seasons at Rossville, which reached the Class 3A title game in 1992 under Luedtke.

Luedtke has made an 80-mile commute from Rossville to Emporia the past five years.

At Class 5A powerhouse Liberal, Taylor has been an assistant for eight seasons. He's spent the past four seasons as defensive coordinator. The Redskins reached the Class 5A title game seven consecutive years before last fall when they lost to Salina Central in the state semifinals. Liberal has won four state titles since 1992.

"You can't get much more successful than Liberal," Taylor said. "I don't know if there's much difference between being defensive coordinator at Liberal and head coach at Lawrence High, other than being in charge. The head coach (Gary Cornelsen) is one of the best. He lets me coach and lets all the assistants do what is necessary. I'm in great situation here."

Why Lawrence?

"It's one of the biggest schools in the state and you've got to be able to come up with athletes," Taylor said. "They've got a great tradition and the kids know how to win. They need someone to help them remember that."

The LHS job opened on April 26 when Purdy announced his retirement after coaching 41 years, including the last nine years with the Lions.

-- Steve Rottinghaus' phone message number is 832-7152. His e-mail address is srottinghaus@ljworld.com

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