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Hall: SOU job too good to pass up

Standing courtside during a recent Ashland High boys basketball game, Charlie Hall was suddenly serenaded with the "Happy Birthday" song, courtesy of the AHS student section.

A smile spread across his face as he realized what was happening, perhaps making the big five-oh a little easier to absorb.

Yes, Hall, as he reiterated Wednesday, has thoroughly enjoyed his time at AHS. Yet, when the head coaching job at Southern Oregon became available two months ago, the former Raider saw it as an opportunity too good to pass up.

"I have a great job already, and that makes it tough," said Hall, who took over the Ashland football program in 2005 after stops at Washington, Northern Arizona, North Texas and New Mexico, among others at the collegiate level. "We've invested a lot of time here and we've gained some ground and have recaptured some of that Grizzly pride that was once here. But these opportunities in coaching come around every so often and you really can't control when they come up. It just seems like a good time to look into it and take a shot, and hopefully try to do the same things (at SOU) that we did here at Ashland High School."

He may get that shot.

Hall on Tuesday was named one of four finalists in the running to become SOU's next head football coach, a job that became available after Steve Helminiak was cut loose in November following a 15-32 five-year run.

When Hall arrives on campus Wednesday for a series of interviews and meetings, he could probably save time and skip the tour — after all, he knows the halls of McNeal Pavilion well. Hall played for the Raiders as a student-athlete, then began his coaching career there as a student assistant in 1982. Four years later, in '86, after stints at Washington, Idaho and New Mexico, Hall returned to become SOU's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Hall proved to be a quick study: the Raiders' offense scored 24.9 points per game in '96.

The following season, he left to take the same job at North Texas, where he helped the Mean Green pick up its first-ever victory over Texas Tech. A year later he returned to Ashland to take over the Grizzlies' defense under then head coach Jim Nagel. It was a perfect fit — Ashland rolled through the regular season, squeezed out win after nail-biting win in the playoffs and ultimately captured the program's third state championship with an overtime victory over Roseburg.

Now, Hall hopes he'll get an opportunity to have a similar impact at Southern Oregon, which has slipped into mediocrity since making consecutive playoff appearances under then head coach Jeff Olson in '01 and '02.

"I'm excited," Hall said. "I wasn't going into this with a wait and see type of approach — I want to help that program get to where it should be."

And where is that?

"I want it to be a program that the community can be proud of," he said. "I think it's a gold mine, it's just ready to explode given the right situation. We need to get the football program to where the other (SOU) programs are — nationally competitive. They've set the standard with wrestling and cross country and volleyball. It's our responsibility to raise the bar for the entire program."