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Olson resigns as North football coach

Out of fairness to the North Medford football program and his own family, Jeff Olson decided it was time for a change.

Following a six-year run at the school, the head football coach formally announced his resignation from the program Tuesday, citing a lack of results on the field and a desire to place more emphasis on his family life.

Olson spent the last five seasons as head coach after serving as defensive coordinator one season under Rod Rumrey. Under his guidance, the Black Tornado compiled a 21-27 overall record, including a 5-6 campaign in 2010.

"It's been wearing on me for a while," Olson said of his decision. "The Medford community expects a winner and I didn't produce. It's been five years and I'm not at all pleased with the job that I did here and I think the Medford community deserves better than what I've done."

Prior to joining North Medford, Olson spent 22 seasons at Southern Oregon University, first as an assistant and then as the head coach from 1996-2004. He led the Raiders to a 50-36 record and guided them to the quarterfinals of the NAIA playoffs in 2001 and 2002. He coached 19 All-Americans.

Olson left SOU when the future of the football program came under scrutiny due to scheduling and financial difficulties. His decision this time involved wanting to be more available for his family, especially youngest son Dante, who is set to be an incoming freshman next fall at Cascade Christian High.

"All he's ever known is me as a head coach," said Olson, 50. "From locker room to locker room, to passing leagues and weight rooms and games as a ballboy, he's been a trooper. Now it's my turn to put myself aside and be a dad and chase him around, and also be a better grandfather and husband."

North Medford Athletics Director Tim Sam said he certainly could empathize with Olson and why he was making such a move.

"Jeff is a great man and brought a lot of integrity to our program," Sam said. "I certainly understand having been in that hot seat for a few years and how it weighs on a family and a person personally, and certainly support him 100 percent in wanting to balance out his time."

Olson will remain on staff as a physical education teacher and academic advisor at North Medford High, and Sam said the wide-scope search for a replacement will begin immediately. Sam said he would soon meet with North Medford administrators and begin formulating a list of who they would like to see apply for the position.

"One of the things that's been very important to us since I've been in this chair (as AD) has been to find a high quality person who makes great connections with kids and is also a great teacher of the game and of life and life lessons," said Sam, "someone who's also able to get 100 percent out of kids and get kids to buy into the program and get out on the field."

Olson fit that bill nicely since taking over for the Black Tornado, only his teams did not enjoy the same success that had become expected each fall out of the program.

North Medford failed to record a winning season during any of Olson's campaigns as head coach. The team snapped a three-year playoff drought in 2009 and advanced to the state playoffs again this past fall despite finishing fifth in the Southwest Conference. The Tornado moved to the SWC during Olson's first year at the helm.

"I am pleased that we got back to the playoffs the last two years," added Olson, "but I know that for years the people involved with Black Tornado football not only expect to make the playoffs, they expect to make a deep run in the playoffs. For us, the last five or six years just to make the playoffs has been working 24-7 and getting a break here and there."

Olson's tenure was also hampered by a general lack of size among the players and an unenviable turnover among his staff of assistant coaches.

"I think there are a lot of spokes on that wheel," Sam said of the football program's recent struggles. "I know talking to Jeff he takes some responsibility, and we take responsibility as an administration for not getting him on-campus, solid coaches year after year. For six years, even with coach Rumrey, we've had a heckuva time filling the coaching roster after not knowing who would be here (on staff) and who would be out."

"And when you look on the field," added Sam, "certainly what we have not seen is those big, young, 300-pound linemen roaming around. It seems like almost every year we're changing the offense to find ways to be creative because we're not necessarily able to control the line of scrimmage just because of our size."

For his part, Olson wasn't interested in making any excuses about what may have factored in the team's win-loss ratio.

"There were some obstacles, there's no doubt, and I could get into things but there's no reason to," he said. "I don't know if I've ever worked harder in my life and it just wasn't coming together. You can make excuses all you want but the bottom line is I'm the one that's responsible at the end of the day."

"This is not an easy thing for me," added Olson. "The last 41 years of my life, from Pop Warner to my coaching, have been about football. I've been very blessed and do want to continue to coach — I don't know when or where — but this is a decision that had to be made out of fairness to the program and out of fairness to my family."

Prior to Olson's tenure, North Medford advanced to the state playoffs eight straight years from 1998 to 2005 under Rumrey and current Crater head coach John Beck as members of the now defunct Southern Oregon Conference. Since Medford High split into two schools (North and South) in 1986, the Black Tornado has won one state championship at the highest classification (1993) and finished runner-up twice (2000 and 2003).

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com