Gridiron keeps calling Morthland coach's name
Steve Rhoads has found an interesting way to spend retirement: heading up a college-football program.
Of course, the program he is now head coach of is one he knows well. After being an assistant coach for the Morthland College football team during its last two years, Rhoads took the reins in March, replacing Mike Popovich, whose resignation was announced in February.
Besides being on the coaching staff, Rhoads is so intertwined with Morthland that his name is on a campus building. He and his business partner donated the facility, which they had used for their furniture business, after closing shop in 2014. Although he retired from the business, he couldn't stay away from the gridiron.
He also has decades of football officiating and assistant coaching behind him and said he was not looking for something new.
“I've learned in retirement that the couch and I don't do very well,” Rhoads told the Southeast Illinois News.
Rhoads, who also served as vice president of development at Morthland, was on the football staff at the beginning, in 2015, and as it moved to a varsity schedule for the first time last year. Prior to joining Morthland's staff, he was an assistant coach at Frankfort High School from 2001 to 2010 and Johnson City from 2011 to 13. Rhoads also has 25 years of officiating on his resume, including as a crew member for the 1996 championship game of NCAA Division 1-AA, now known as the Football Championship Subdivision.
“My friends in the officiating business say I've gone to the dark side,” he said.
Rhoads said the transition from assistant coach to head coach has been “fairly seamless,” with a lot of the focus on recruiting. His vision for the program includes getting an invitation to the Victory Bowl, the championship game of the National Christian College Athletic Association. He also said he would like to see the team become part of a conference.
The Patriots will be looking to build on last season's 7-3 record with a team loaded with underclassmen.
“It was an extremely challenging season, but at the same time we considered it a very successful one in that we had a winning record and were able to do well against the teams we played for the most part, even though we took a few shellackings,” Rhoads said.
The Patriots should have good speed this season, Rhoads said, and hopefully build on a defense that got better as last season went along.
For now, Rhoads said the he looks forward to the time he spends on the field with players.
“I'm getting as much as I'm giving, believe me," he said. "I really am."