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Cattanach on the way out – but you already knew

Michael Traum

Psst, have you heard that coach is being fired? No, really? Where’d you hear that? Oh, it’s going around …

Not once did the clock expire during this season’s four Whittell High home football games without someone uttering those words. They were comments directed toward five-year head coach Butch Cattanach – utterances from teachers, parents, other coaches, fans and kids.

“Cattanach is gone,” they’d say. “I heard he’s done after this season.”



Granted, the team was on the path toward a winless season. And with the opposition averaging a score every 1 1/2 minutes while the Warriors lit the scoreboard just once every 10 minutes, there was plenty of time for thoughts to wander.

But where did that thinking originate? Who would knock a group of never-say-die kids by starting such “rumors?”



With little encouragement, the answer came, “That’s what Mr. Snyder is saying.”

First-year principal Larry Snyder, that is, a Monterey-area transplant who came to Whittell to replace outgoing head man Dave Sheets. A former football coach, Snyder made it very clear from the beginning that he was interested in securing on-campus coaches, not just for football but for every sport.

But according to the “rumors,” that wasn’t all Snyder was telling people. He had apparently already decided to open the position and wasn’t tight-lipped about discussing his displeasure with the way the football season was going. More than once, in fact numerous times, this reporter received phone calls or talked in person to people who said Snyder had point-blank told them that Cattanach was on his way out – teachers, parents, other coaches, fans and kids.

Before the final game, it was time to ask him directly.

“Every program that I supervise, we sit down at the end of the year and evaluate what transpired. This has obviously been a real tough situation (not winning) for the coach and the kids. And it’s been tough for me because I’ve never been anywhere that we haven’t had any success at all,” Snyder said. “When I went to Monterey, they’d been a down program for five years and the first thing I had to do was make a change in the football program. With my background, I’ve been a coach for 20 years, I know what it takes to be successful. I’m going to do everything I can to make us competitive.”

Seemingly, Snyder’s predisposition for sending a nonwinning coach packing, coupled with Cattanach being an off-campus man, had set the table for finding a new coach.

“The biggest disadvantage Butch has is not being on campus. There are people on this staff who have been involved with football before who aren’t currently involved. And they have expressed an interest,” said Snyder, who, in his defense, denies ever mentioning to anyone during the season that he had plans to dismiss Cattanach. “All I can say is that nothing has been done. I’ve heard the same thing. People say why have you made a decision to do that after only two games. No decision has been made. The whole thing will be analyzed and a couple of weeks after the season we’ll know which direction we’re going to go.”

But how is it, then, do supposed rumors of the principal planning to fire a coach get started?

“I think any time you have a change at the top in a school, a lot of rumors can start,” he said. “A transition is happening at Whittell and we’re in a new era. If I feel that there’s any program where a change is needed, then I’ll make it happen. If it’s going along fine, then we’ll continue in the direction we’re going.

“Football is a big focal point for a school. Anytime you’re having a lack of success, people will say what are you going to do about it.”

Hasn’t Snyder looked at Cattanach’s record? In five years, he’d posted a 17-28 mark, including a 7-2 record in 1995 and 6-3 with a playoff appearance in 1996. Yes, 1997 was a down year, but it was painfully obvious that the team didn’t have the manpower.

Snyder’s main point is that a coach needs to be on campus, which is very valid. Traditionally, it’s much easier to encourage participation and follow an athlete’s academic endeavors if you can monitor them throughout the day.

And it’s a point not at all lost on Cattanach, who admits that he’d give up a successful private business to be at Whittell full time. The coach possesses a high school teaching credential, qualifying him to work at Whittell. But since there are no positions open, the school’s immediate future doesn’t appear to include Cattanach as a classroom instructor.

Until this week, Cattanach had never been formally informed or even talked to by Snyder that his position was going to be open. He’s only heard it – from teachers, parents, other coaches, fans and kids.

On Wednesday, Cattanach finally received a request to meet with Snyder next week. But for nine games, it’d been rumors – the talk of a firing squad had taken over.

It’s probable that Snyder, or whoever, meant no harm by spreading the word that Cattanach was on the way out. And it’ll be no surprise when, next week, Whittell announces his dismissal.

But sadly, everyone, including the coach, already knew it was coming.


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