Paul Adams wrote a story about the resignation of Ubly football coach Bill Sweeney for Tuesday's paper.
Here is his report.
UBLY — Ubly football coach Bill Sweeney had a saying he asked his players to believe in.
“We have a saying, ‘It’s all about want,’” he said. “We put the time in — this has been a 365-day venture for me for a long time. It’s all about want... But how can I tell kids that when my priorities are changing?”
When the rigors of coaching became too much for him, Sweeney knew it was his time to step away.
After months of consideration, Sweeney, who for eight seasons guided the Bearcats’ football program, has resigned.
“After the first game (this past season), I really started thinking about this. I wasn’t really with it mentally. By the first game, I talked to (athletic director) Dan (Delamarter) and I talked to a couple of my close friends and told them I couldn’t do this anymore.
“I spent nine months working to get ready for the season, and I was wondering if I had enough to get through it.”
Sweeney did make it through the season, finishing 11-1, with a loss to Ravenna in the Division 7 regional championship.
Following that game, he waited to make his decision.
In fact, he began his normal pre-season routine of opening the weight room for players, but quickly discovered the passion wasn’t there.
“Come January, I decided to give it one last try, but I felt like the horse had been ridden,” Sweeney said. “I don’t want to short-change the kids. They work hard and I’m just spent.”
Although Sweeney has coached eight seasons, it’s more like 11, when taking into account all of the playoff appearances.
Since 2003, when he took over, the Bearcats were in the playoffs each year, competing in 26 games, winning 18 of them.
“It just wears on you,” Sweeney said.
While personally disappointed with Sweeney’s decision, Delamarter completely supports it.
“When you do the things he’s done, you don’t do that as a part-time guy,” said Delamarter. “You’re (at school) in the winter with guys lifting weights, you’re in early lifting weights. You’re going to clinics. To have the success, it’s not because you treat it as a part-time deal.
“I would love to have Bill continue to coach, but it would be selfish on my part to want that. I want what’s best for Bill Sweeney, his family and his profession as a teacher.
“Bill is going to be missed greatly. You don’t really replace Bill and what he brings with his passion. All we can do is our best to carry on with what he has taught everyone.
“It’s difficult because I know how tough of a decision it was for him. It wasn’t an easy decision, but he’s doing the right thing.”
The Ubly Way
The recent success of the football program isn’t hard to understand.
Sweeney, who learned under the late Hall of Fame coach Jerry Herp, subscribed to the idea of keeping things as simple as he could.
He joked all the time that his Wing-T offense only ran three plays.
“The best thing I ever heard was that (Legendary Dallas Cowboys coach) Tom Landry could run 1,000 things one way,” Sweeney said. “(Legendary Green Bay Packers coach) Vince Lombardi could run one thing 1,000 ways.
“I subscribe to that type of mentality.
“Out of our basic blocking, we would run 120 plays, from 60 different formations. That’s what we did. Defensively, Jim (Becker) did the same things.”
Delamarter admired that philosophy.
“To me, what is the most impressive thing about what he and his staff have done is they did it with simple principles,” he said. “But he stuck to those simple principles that he established and never wavered.
“He kept things very simple for a reason. It’s not some fancy spread offense with people flashing cards on the sideline. He just taught fundamentals and he made kids believe in themselves.”
Sweeney always had an uncanny ability to get the most out of his players.
Whether it was a superstar, or a player on the practice squad, nearly every athlete Sweeney had the privilege to coach got the most out of themselves.
“One of the reasons I think I was a successful coach is that I was the average kid,” he said. “I can relate, I wasn’t a superstar. I was a kid searching for something and football gave that to me.
“You’re always going to remember and respect all the great players. But my affinity is for the guys that didn’t have the greatest ability, but got the most out of their talent.
“I wasn’t the easiest guy to get along with because there was only one way for us to do this — the hard way. You can’t imagine the pride I have for those guys, they’ve touched my life. The same thing goes for the guys I coached with.”
Delamarter believes Sweeney used football to shape the lives of many of the young men he coached, and set others down the right path.
“We’ve had some kids that have come through that without football they would have had a difficult time,” he said. “He means more to me than just running that football program. He’s important to a lot of people that have graduated here.
“He loves his former players because they’re an important part of his life.”
Sweeney’s overall coaching record is 78-19 (.864). He averaged nearly 10 wins per season.
Currently, Ubly is riding a 32-game regular season winning streak, the longest in Thumb history.
No other team in the Thumb has made more semifinal appearances than the Bearcats’ four in the last eight seasons.
But none of that really matters to Sweeney. In fact, he said he hasn’t really thought about the record or the streak. Those aren’t the kind of things that matter to him.
What matters is the memories made along the way.
“I don’t think much about going to Ford Field, or the semifinals. I think about all those moments,” Sweeney said. “Maybe some day I will look back (at the records).”
Among the many memories is Sweeney’s first year as varsity coach in 2003. Ubly went up against New Lothrop in the Division 7 regional championship. The Hornets were heavily favored, unbeaten and No. 3 rated.
The Bearcats rolled to a 52-22 blowout on their way to their first-ever semifinal appearance.
“That 2003 game against New Lothrop, they got so much press,” Sweeney said. “For us to go down there and have a running clock on them in the third quarter, that’s something I will never forget.”
Another more recent memory came in Sweeney’s second to last game, a 34-21 victory over Saginaw Nouvel.
“The most satisfying thing was coming up with game plans and executing them,” he said.
Along with the players, Sweeney will miss his coaching staff.
Defensive coordinator Jim Becker and Sweeney have been linked to the success of Ubly.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better dude to coach with,” Sweeney said of Becker. “That goes for all the guys. I had a special group of guys. That was the hardest part of this, feeling like I let them down.”
Delamarter doesn’t know what direction he will go in his search for a new coach, but would like it to come off Sweeney’s existing staff.
“Right now, we’re going to let the dust settle and post the job,” he said. “I’m going to sit down with all of those guys to see if we can come up with a workable solution.
“We’re all on the same page. We want what’s best for the kids and we want to continue to be successful. Bill has instilled not only in the kids how to go about this the right way, but he’s also influenced his coaching staff.
“When you come to a football game next season, Bill’s not going to be there, and we’re going to miss him terribly. But it’s still going to be Ubly football. The kids are going to play hard, they’re going to be well-coached, they’re going to be motivated and we’re going to do things the right way — the way Bill would want us to do it.”
Sweeney has full confidence that his staff is ready to move on without him.
“I think we have an excellent program. I just happen to be the head coach of that program,” he said. “We’ve charted a course, the kids know the program, the guys I coached with know it. I couldn’t have coached with a better group of guys. They know inside-out and backward what we’ve done.”
He didn’t close the door on a return to coaching in the future, but for now Sweeney is content with his decision. He said he is going to take an entire year away to enjoy his three sons playing their respective sports.
“I hope I can remove myself from it and just be there for my boys,” he said. “With that perspective, I don’t think it will be that hard. I’ve never been afforded the opportunity to watch my kids play.”
Year Record Playoffs
2003 10-3 3-1*
2004 8-3 1-1
2005 6-4 1-1
2006 10-3 3-1*
2007 8-3 1-1
2008 13-1 4-1**
2009 12-1 3-1*
2010 11-1 2-1
78-19 (.804) 18-8 (.692)
|Ubly football coach Bill Sweeney holds the Division 7 runner-up trophy in 2008. Sweeney, who helped shape the Bearcats into one of the model programs in the Thumb, resigned recently.|