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Grizzlies select Hall to lead football program

He may be overqualified, but he's also home. In the end, that was enough for Charlie Hall.

Hall, a Southern Oregon University alum and Ashland resident, will leave NCAA Division I-AA Northern Arizona University to become Ashland High's new head football coach and physical education teacher, athletic director Karl Kemper announced Thursday.

Hall, 44, replaces David Coldiron, who resigned in December after a two-year stint.

Hall, who was an assistant at Ashland from 1998 to 2001, brings a wealth of experience seldom seen at the high school level. While this is his first head coaching job, he's held assistant coaching positions at five colleges since 1988, most recently as NAU's offensive coordinator.

I feel excited about going back to ' I guess you could say ' home, Hall said. It's been a great opportunity and a challenge here at Northern Arizona, so I'm looking forward to getting back with those guys (at Ashland) and getting the football program to a position where it can be a real competitive program, like it was when Jim Nagel was there.

— Hall joins a Grizzly program that hasn't qualified for the state playoffs since 2000 and is 1-11 in Southern Oregon Conference play over the past two years. That drought can be attributed to several factors, including a steep drop in enrollment at the school that has led to smaller football rosters.

Hall may have come at just the right time, however. The Oregon School Activities Association is expected to shift the state's largest 4A schools into a new 5A division ' for football only ' in 2006, a move that would even the playing field for smaller 4A schools such as Ashland.

Also, thanks in part to Coldiron's efforts, the Grizzlies seem to be turning a corner in terms of numbers. According to Coldiron, his first varsity team at Ashland had a roster of only 36 players. That number went up to 56 last season and, according to Coldiron's projections, should hit 70 next season.

I think my main principle is: Football, I don't think, is for everybody, said Hall, whose 12-year-old son is an avid baseball player. I think the one thing that we want to make sure to do is to reach out to those best athletes and give them an opportunity to be a part of our program. From there, I think if we get a good crop of kids we'll put a group of athletes together that will play with great effort. Every team that plays hard and plays smart has a chance to be successful.

Hall made a big impact while coaching at Northern Arizona. In 2003, the Lumberjacks' offense produced a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard rusher, and earned Hall the NCAA Division I-AA Offensive Coordinator of the Year award.

To get a coach with his experience and ability at the high school level is amazing, Kemper said. More important, he's been here before, he's shown he's a quality person, he has a great touch with kids and everybody who knows him from the time he was here before just absolutely loves the guy.

Hall was offered the job Saturday and a deal was finalized Tuesday night, Kemper said.

About 20 applied for the job and Hall's name quickly rose to the top. The extensive hiring process, which began about three weeks ago, included interviews by two separate committees, one focusing on the coaching job and the other on the teaching position. Hall also had to formulate a lesson and teach it to a mock class.

Hall began his coaching career at SOU, where he coached the Raider running backs from 1982 to 1983. After a two-year stint at Kent-Meridian High in Washington, he became a graduate assistant coach at the University of Washington, earning his master's degree in 1987.

Hall's career took off after that, leading to assistant coaching stints at University of Idaho (1988-92), University of New Mexico (1992-96), Southern Oregon (1996-97) and University of North Texas (1997-98). His responsibilities increased each time, from special teams coordinator at Idaho to offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach at North Texas.

He left North Texas to join AHS and helped the Grizzlies capture the 1998 Class 4A state title.

I think first and foremost, he's been here before and knows the community and the kids and he's got family here, said former Grizzly assistant Tim Brown, who was on the hiring committee and worked with Hall before retiring in 2002. Secondly, in my mind, was his experience. He's been in so many programs. I think he comes across, thirdly, as very dynamic and I think he'll come across as a high-energy person for the kids.

Joe Zavala is sports editor of the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 482-3456.