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Becksted resigns as head coach at North

In the midst of one of the North Medford football program's worst starts ever, first-year head coach Nate Becksted offered his resignation on Wednesday.

The Black Tornado is 1-6 overall and 1-4 in the Southwest Conference.

(Correction: The name of the conference has been corrected in this story.)

Becksted's decision comes with two regular-season games remaining: North hosts Roseburg this Friday and travels to Thurston next Friday. The Black Tornado will also play in a Class 6A state play-in contest.

On Wednesday morning, Becksted gave athletic director Tim Sam and principal Ron Beick his letter of resignation. Becksted said he ruminated the possibility of resigning "for a few days" and based his decision on a desire to devote more time to his family, on a hope to eliminate himself as a possible distraction and alleviate pressure on his former players and on a loss of "drive to stick it out."

The expectation of leading the tradition-rich program, the 37-year-old Medford resident said, became a burden with pressure that kept "building, and building and building."

"You know, I decided the time was best now because I felt like it would take some of the pressure off the kids," said Becksted, who was quick to offer gratitude to Sam, Beick and the parents and community members whom he said have supported him. "The season we've had has been a struggle in this community. Even though it was my first year people had expectations over the last few weeks. There has been some pressure put on me and the school. It's been tough on my family. I decided although this decision is 100 percent about me and my family and what was best for us, the timing was 100 percent about what was best for the kids and North Medford football.

"There were the people out there who thought I wasn't doing a good job. I respect their opinion. With me stepping down it pleases the people who wanted to see this happen and they can back away and let these kids finish their season and hopefully finish strong."

Assistant Tom Powell will serve as North's interim coach for the remainder of the season. Becksted will continue to work as a physical education teacher at North.

The school will conduct a search for a permanent head coach during the offseason, Beick said. In Medford, one-year teaching contracts are renewed each spring.

In a school press release, Sam said, "We know this was a difficult decision for Nate and we want to thank him for his hard work over the past few months."

On Wednesday afternoon, Becksted held a meeting with players and coaches before the start of practice to inform the group of his decision. He then left, leaving Powell and his former assistants in charge.

"It was tough for me," Becksted said of the meeting. "I can't speak to everyone else's emotion. It was not something I enjoyed doing. It was hard for me to explain myself to the boys."

Becksted said he plans to meet with players and offer his support in the coming weeks.

"My intention over the next few weeks is to meet with many of the kids individually, the ones who have questions or legit things they want to discuss. ... I plan to continue to help kids with recruiters or the recruiting process. I hope I can help them in any way I can."

Powell has coached at North for seven seasons. The veteran assistant has over 30 years of experience, including 19 seasons at Southern Oregon University and stints at Idaho State and Rocky Mountain College.

"It's a loss," Powell said of Becksted's departure. "I know how hard he works. When he told the players today, I saw a lot of tears and frustration, and a lot of disbelief."

Now, the 54-year-old Powell said he's eager to make the most of the situation while doing what he said brings him great joy: teaching and guiding high school athletes.

"I talked to all the assistants first and without a doubt we said we are in it for the kids," said Powell, whose only head football coaching experience came in the late 1970s at a junior high school in Bozeman, Mont. "We've had a tough year, but gosh, I can tell you we have great kids. They work hard and have stayed positive through all the adversity. All our coaches said, 'Hey, let's give them the best chance to win and keep battling.'"

Becksted replaced Jeff Olson, who resigned last November after five seasons. Becksted had nine years of head coaching experience, including the past five at Heritage High in Vancouver, Wash. Before that, he was at Willits (Calif.) High for four seasons.

Becksted, whose career record is now 51-39, resigned at Heritage in December, citing the desire of him and his wife, Julie, to find a coaching position closer to their 7-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter's grandparents in northern California.

He took over a program accustomed to success and hungry for a winner.

The Black Tornado advanced to the state playoffs eight straight years from 1998 to 2005. Since Medford High split into two schools (North and South) in 1986, North has captured one state championship at the highest classification (1993) and finished runner-up twice (2000 and 2003).

North Medford made the playoffs in 2009 and 2010, but hasn't had a winning campaign since the 2005 team went 8-4 in the old Southern Oregon Conference.

North's only victory this fall was a 46-44 triumph over winless South Eugene on Sept. 23.

"I came here with the best of intentions and I really wanted to see this thing through," Becksted said. "But it became apparent to me that it would be more than my family and I could bear I suppose. It's like any high school football job. People have an opinion of what we need to do and in a town with Medford's tradition they can be loud and strong. I believe the kids were trying as hard as they could. We were coaching as hard as we could. I think we could have got it turned around in a few years. It's a lot of things. I don't want to get into what was said and who was saying it.

"The assistant coaches are great men who work hard. No doubt there are some issues there and they are aware of that."

Becksted said he made his decision to resign with only a few remaining games because he felt his departure may benefit the players.

"I didn't have the drive to stick it out," Becksted said. "I didn't want to shortchange North Medford because they have been good to me."

Becksted said his future is uncertain in some ways, but he is certain of this: he has no immediate desire to serve as a head coach.

"I believe I will be teaching for the rest of the school year," Becksted said. "And after that I don't know. It depends on a lot of things. I don't plan on being a head coach anywhere else anytime in the near future.

"It's not about me. I want to slip away and hope North Medford rebounds and gets the program where it needs to be as soon as possible."

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com

Nate Becksted works with North Medford players during a preseason drill. - File photo