|G. Michael Graham. New Highlands Head Football Coach Brian Weinrich addresses the community after being named 19th head coach in school history Wednesday. Weinrich has been on staff for 19 years.|
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
There may not be a smoother transition than this one.
The search committee that consisted of Highlands High School Principal Brian Robinson, former Head Football Coach and Director of Athletics Dale Mueller among others knew they had their guy the moment he came in for the interview. They just had to make it official.
Brian Weinrich became the 19th head coach of the vaunted Highlands Bluebirds football program Wednesday. That program is the second-winningest in the country with an overall record of 855-227-26 since the program began in 1915. Only Valdosta (Georgia) has more wins with an overall record of 882-214-34 dating back to 1913.
“I have never seen a position where one candidate had such overwhelming support,” Mueller said. “I am so excited for the football players at Highlands because they are going to have a tremendous, hard-working, positive and fun coach. He is a wonderful role model for all of our students.”
The press conference was originally scheduled for Monday. But freezing temperatures forced school cancellations Monday and Tuesday.
Weinrich had been the leading candidate to replace Mueller for a long time. Weinrich said he’d apply for the job when Mueller announced his retirement in December.
The Bluebirds finished 250-36 in Mueller’s 20 years at the helm with 11 state championships, three state runner-up finishes and 17 district championships. Weinrich came on staff in 1995 as a volunteer assistant and worked his way up through the ranks. Weinrich became Defensive Coordinator in 2002 and has been the Assistant Head Coach since 2001.
“The foundation is already set,” Weinrich said. “We talk to them all the time. You have to put another brick in it every day. That’s what I’m the most excited about. That’s all these guys know how to do. That’s go, go, go.”
Weinrich unofficially served as head coach in the 2012 Class 4A title game, a 47-0 win over Collins. Mueller’s mother-in-law passed away so he had to miss the game.
Weinrich is the lone person the staff interviewed for the job. Unlike openings at Ryle, Logan County and Paducah Tilghman, the administration did not post the job on the Kentucky High School Athletic Association web site. It is not required like teaching jobs are with the Kentucky Department of Education. Those teaching jobs have to be posted for 30 days.
Weinrich has been a teacher in the district for a while. He teaches Eighth grade Social Studies at Highlands Middle School.
“We were looking for someone who was completely dedicated to the success of our program, student-centered, inclusive, focused on constant growth and excellence, someone who had respect and pride in our program, and someone who had a keen understanding of what has led to the success of Highlands High School,” Robinson said. “All great programs look inward first. They look at those who have been working with the program and have that keen understanding. (Weinrich) is obsessed with the football program. One of the comments he made is he is focused on improving every guy every day. I’ll believe he’ll work harder than anyone I know and is dedicated to helping the guys work harder than they believe they can work.”
Weinrich also experienced success as a player. Weinrich played wide receiver and defensive back on the 1989 Class AAA state championship team led by Tom Duffy that edged Paducah Tilghman, 7-3. He had three catches for 36 yards in that game.
The news came as relief to the players. They will not have to adjust to someone that had not been on staff unlike the last two hirings.
“I think I speak for the whole team,” said Matt Gall, rising Highlands senior defensive lineman. “We were really hoping Coach Weinrich would get the job. All of us like him. We think he can take us to the next level and hopefully bring state (championships) back to the school.”
Weinrich knows about the many pros of the job. The main thing is the extreme dedication of the players. He even said the returning players were sad they could not get to work immediately after losing 37-34 to Collins in the Class 4A state championship on Dec. 7.
Weinrich will also be able to ask Mueller for advice. Mueller will be the Director of Athletics through the 2014-15 school year. Weinrich joked that he’s burning Mueller’s e-mails up already.
Weinrich also had tremendous support from his family and community including the Fort Thomas Youth Football League. Weinrich and his wife Ashley have a daughter in the fifth grade in McKenzie.
“The night before the state game this past year, we’re sitting around the house and McKenzie says, ‘Bring home a winner or don’t come home for dinner,” Weinrich said. “I’m kind of hungry so hopefully, she’ll let me eat next year. I can’t thank (Ashley and McKenzie) enough for all the support.”
Weinrich is also familiar with some of the challenges. One of the big ones is scheduling teams from Northern Kentucky. Only three teams from Boone, Kenton and Campbell Counties have been on the schedule in recent years. Campbell County Head Coach Stephen Lickert, a 1997 Highlands alum, has said the Camels will continue to play the Bluebirds. The schedule is in place for next year in the second year of many two-year contracts.
“We’ll take that as it comes,” Weinrich said. “We’re looking to try to develop some relationships and get some games with them. It would be a good thing.”
He also knows the high expectations of the program. The Bluebirds are 100-5 in the last seven years.
“I look forward to making the program better,” Weinrich said. “I think Coach Mueller would be a bit aggravated with us if we didn’t do better this year than we did last year. I am excited to be here and can’t wait to get started.”
Highands owns 22 state championships in school history. The Bluebirds began working on another one Wednesday with winter weights and conditioning. They will work out after school three times a week until spring football practices start.