Wickenburg football coach Mike Mitchell leaves after assistant coach promoted to co-head coach

·3 min read

Mike Mitchell, who led Wickenburg High School's football program for four years, recently resigned over feeling undermined by an administrator's move to promote an assistant coach without his knowledge.

The assistant was promoted to co-head coach, according to Mitchell. It was reported by The Wickenburg Sun that Mitchell was written up last season over school district procedural violations and disciplined.

Mitchell, 76, was still planning to come back, before he said the school promoted the assistant to share in his head coaching duties without talking to him.

"Our athletic director made a step that I didn't appreciate," Mitchell told The Arizona Republic. "That was involved in everything. I just decided it was time to leave."

Athletic Director Matt Johnson called it "a miscommunication."

"Wickenburg athletic department fully intended for Mike Mitchell to be our head coach this season," Johnson said in an email. "It was a miscommunication, I asked him to coach up an assistant."

Mitchell felt undermined.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I thought we had done a really good job here and I liked the situation. There are a couple of things. They've got an eligibility rule that I've been trying to get them to change. They don't seem to want to progress at all. If they don't want to listen to what I have to say, they can listen to somebody else."

The Wranglers were 24-17 with three state playoff appearances during Mitchell's tenure. He said he is returning to Oregon to lead the football program at Caldera High School in Bend.

"Mike did a great job for us and we wish him well in his new coaching job in Oregon," Johnson said.

Mitchell said one week last season he had 16 players suspended for a game due to the eligibility rule. He felt that the players should have had until Thursday to pick their grades up in order to play on Friday, but he said that they had to sit out the full week.

Mitchell, who has more than 50 years of coaching experience at every level, said he was disciplined over purchasing football equipment during the season with his own money. He said he didn't fill out the proper paperwork through the school and district to do so.

"Matt will tell it was nothing illegal I did," Mitchell said. "I've never been written up in 50-some years. I took offense to it."

Mitchell said the purchase came during the season, but he wasn't written up about it until March 4.

"To me, that's a little crazy," Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he would have dealt with that, but when his assistant was elevated to sharing coaching duties with him, that was when he knew he had to go.

"Everything else I would have handled and worked out," Mitchell said. "But to have a guy do that without even talking to me, it's just not how I'm going to do business."

To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at richard.obert@arizonarepublic.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him on Twitter @azc_obert.

Support local journalism: Subscribe to azcentral.com today

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Wickenburg football coach Mike Mitchell leaves over co-coaching move