West Frankfort, Ill. - Mike "Pop" Popovich has resigned as head football coach at Morthland College.
Citing a desire to be closer to and have more time for his family, Popovich informed Athletic Director Reid Cure of his decision to step down on Tuesday, January 31.
"It was a family decision. I need to spend more time with my wife and my kids, and driving 170 miles roundtrip every day just makes that difficult," Popovich said, also elaborating on how difficult the decision was to make. "It was incredibly tough. We built something really special in a short amount of time. Our guys established core values, brought up the overall team GPA, and won some football games. I love these kids, and that made this decision a really tough one to make."
Hired in early February 2016 to replace Mike Rude, Popovich hit the ground running, going after and securing some top level talent from all over the country. Perhaps his biggest recruiting success was at the quarterback position, where Pop was able to land the services of California quarterback Dennis Chester. Chester was third in the NCCAA in passing yards per game, thanks in large part to a fast-paced, spread offense to go along with his elite arm talent.
In the school's first year of a full varsity schedule, the Patriots finished 7-3, garnering instant credibility for such a young program. The offense finished the season ranked first in scoring in the NCCAA at 39.5 points per game, while the team's defense finished number one in the nation in yards allowed per game.
Facing the challenge of hiring a new football coach, Cure knows that replacing Popovich will be a tall order. "Coach Pop is one-of-a-kind. His energy and his ability to recruit kids here are things that will be incredibly difficult to replace. He did such a good job in building this program. The kids love him, and he will be missed."
No timeline has been placed on naming Popovich's replacement, but Cure has discussed making the decision in a timely fashion. "For the continuity of the program, we want to act quickly while still hiring the best possible candidate."
Any interested candidates can email a resume and cover letter to: [email protected]