When Tom Young woke up today, he did so for the first time in 44 years not thinking about the next game or the next season.
On Thursday, Young announced his resignation as McPherson High football coach after nine years. He dramatically changed the perception of MHS football, taking it from a perennial downtrodden program to one of the best in Class 5A, then Class 4A Division I.
Young compiled a 75-22 record during his tenure, each resulting in a postseason playoff berth, something the Bullpups had last accomplished in 1988 before his arrival. Twice he led the Bullpups to a school-record 10 wins and four times the team won eight games or more. He brought the excitement back, as MHS home games consistently drew packed McPherson Stadium crowds and made Friday nights “a happening.”
“I’m getting older,” the 65-year-old Young said Thursday afternoon in a phone interview with midkansasonline.com. “By the end of the season I was mentally fatigued.”
This will represent his first break after 44 years. He had coached continuously, starting at Hanover, before going on to Wellington, Derby, Leavenworth and finally MHS. His greatest success came at Derby, where he coached for 21 years and won a state championship in 1994. He earlier had won state titles at Hanover and Wellington. He finished his career with 343 victories — second all-time in Kansas history to C.J. Hamilton of Silver Lake — and just 111 losses. He figures at some point to go into the state Hall of Fame and will most certainly be added to the MHS Wall of Fame once the automatic waiting period is over.
Young started at MHS in 2006 and many were skeptical that he couldn’t succeed despite his track record. The school has been known for decades for its basketball.
“I was optimistic,” he said. “I thought we could win here. I knew it was a good school and had community support. I was fortunate we had some good players.”
Young said he was proud of his accomplishments, but admits he would have liked to have guided MHS to a state championship. He thought the team had a great shot both in 2008 and 2012, but eventual state champions Hutchinson and Holton, respectively, derailed the Bullpups’ title hopes.
“I don’t think you’re ever completely satisfied, you can always do a little more,” Young said.
A key to MHS’ success, Young said, was that he had good people around him. His coaching staff seldom changed in his nine years and he thanked his assistants for their time and dedication. MHS was very seldom caught off guard during Young’s tenure and his teams generally had an advantage on the sidelines going into games.
Young, for the most part, had been a run-oriented coach at Derby, and his first MHS team relied on a strong ground game. But when some talented passers started to come through the system, he opened things up and the result was a point explosion. MHS’ teams made 30-point-plus games commonplace.
“I was fortunate we had some really good quarterbacks and some good receivers,” Young said.
Young said what he’ll miss most is practice.
“I really enjoyed going to practice more than the games,” he said. “I enjoy the teaching aspect.”
Young also will be known for the SPS weight-training program that he instituted at the school, which has been a boon not just to the football program, but all sports. The physical development of student-athletes has been stunning and McPherson generally has some of the better athletes in the class.
Young, who will step down from his teaching duties in May, has no future plans at this point, except to spend time with his wife, Sheila, and their children and grandchildren. He has children who live in the Wichita area, so there’s a chance there might be a move to that area. He said one of his sons coaches in Texas and he might see if he could use an assistant with a little bit of experience.
At least he stepped down knowing that his finest job may have come in his final season. While the Bullpups’ 7-3 record wasn’t up there with the 10-2 and 9-2 teams, he probably did more with less than any other time in his nine years. The Bullpups had little depth and every week it seemed a key player would get hurt. Yet, he guided the team to upset wins over state-ranked Buhler and Hays in district play, before the season came to an end with a 28-25 upset loss to Mulvane in the first round of the Class 4A Division I playoffs.