Mike Degen's four years as head football coach of the Central Lakes College Raiders came to an end Wednesday when he announced his resignation.
"I didn't feel I could do the job I wanted to do and also work full time," Degen said. "Unfortunately, the way the position is at the college, it's less than one-quarter time. Unless you're retired, or naturally wealthy, you have to work another job."
Degen, 33, said he felt like he was more of an administrator than a football coach.
"You spend about 50 percent of your time recruiting," said Degen, "and you have to recruit about 250 athletes to get 50 to show up. The other 40 percent you need to help with financial aid and housing, as well as advising kids because they're away from home. That part I felt I was lacking because I wasn't at the college enough. Only about 10 percent is actually coaching football."
In his four years at the Raiders' helm, Degen had an 8-27 record. He had eight players named to the All-Southern Division team, three to the All-MCCC team and one to the All-Region team. In 2001, the Raiders were region academic team champions.
This fall may have been Degen's most difficult as a coach. The Raiders lost 14 starters to injuries on their way to a 1-8 season. Despite that adversity, the Raiders came to play each game and gave some of the state's best teams hard-fought battles.
"There are some great kids coming back next year," Degen said. "There's going to be 20-24 eligible players back next year and that's a heck of lot more than we've had in the past. I'm leaving behind a bunch of great kids and I hope they respect my decision."
As far as hiring a new football coach, men's athletic director Dennis Eastman pointed to a few options the athletic department has.
"What we did was get together with Jane (Peterson), Jim Russell and myself," said Eastman, "and meet with Wendy Schluender, our immediate boss and the head of student services.
"Our No. 1 one wish is to hire someone full- ime that would be here on staff. But with our present economics it doesn't look like that will work.
"The other option is to stay as is. We don't want to say that it's a part-time coaching job, but rather it's a football coaching position. Right now we're pursuing that option."
So far, Eastman has had a few inquiries into the vacancy and is looking to fill the coaching spot as soon as possible in order to get recruiting under way.
"There are people that have said they're interested so we're in the process of contacting people," Eastman said. "We're on a timetable. We have to get this in order for, whoever the coach is, to have the opportunity to recruit. They'd have to be on board by January."
Degen, school administrator at Lake Superior High School, a charter school in Duluth, said he will miss the players and games the most.
"I'm going to miss the two-a-days, the evaluating and meeting the players," said Degen. "I also loved being around the players on game days. I think our record didn't indicate it but we did get better in a few areas."
A player for CLC in 1989 and then head coach Al Holmes, Degen was thankful to his alma mater for giving him a chance to coach.
"I want to thank the CLC staff for supporting me," said Degen, "and Dennis Eastman for having the confidence to hire me for the position and to give me the opportunity.
"This was a tough decision to make but it was a decision I thought I had to make in order for the program to get to the next level. I hope the next guy has better luck."
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