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Hud Venerable never thought he’d coach football again at the high school level.
He’d been there, done that.
And Venerable had done it better than most, primarily during a 14-year run at Normal Community High School, where he was 126-37, including a Class 6A state championship in 2006.
His last three seasons — 2005, ’06 and ’07 — Normal was 38-3.
That’s what I call leaving on a high note.
If anything, Venerable would consider coaching at the collegiate level once he was eligible to retire in 30 months from his position as athletic director at Lincoln-Way Central.
You know, help out recruiting or scouting, nothing ridiculously demanding. Just something that would enhance, not tarnish, his golden years.
When Lincoln-Way Central football coach Brett Hefner “resigned” a few weeks back, Venerable was intent on finding a “builder” to restore the once-great program to a more prominent level.
It didn’t matter if the right man arrived from inside District 210 or outside, like it did with the hiring of Tim Dougherty from Edwardsville in 2008.
Lincoln-Way Central Central was going to leave no stone unturned in its pursuit of finding the right man for the gig.
Venerable had received resumes from candidates as far as North Carolina just days into the process.
However, the week after Thanksgiving, Lincoln-Way Central principal Dr. Steve Provis approached Venerable about taking the job.
Provis isn’t your ordinary principal. He’s a Knight through and through, having played football and graduated from Lincoln-Way in 1986.
To watch the program finish 7-20 the past three seasons made Provis’ stomach react with the same displeasure of a vending machine burrito.
“Steve’s very passionate about football,” Venerable said. “He’s wanted me to get involved with the football program since I got here.”
Venerable avoided Provis’ coaching overtures for four years.
Not this time.
Venerable is the new football coach at Lincoln-Way Central, the District 210 school board providing its seal of approval Thursday night.
He’ll stay on as athletic director, though assistant athletic director Jason Helbling will accept more responsibility.
“It all happened so fast,” Venerable said. “I took several phone calls about the position and responded to quite a few applicants about the job. I was preparing for interviews.”
Now he’s preparing for the 2013 season, which looks a little more appealing with the Knights moving from the SouthWest Suburban Blue — away from Bolingbrook, Sandburg and Homewood-Flossmoor — to the SouthWest Suburban Red with Thornridge, Thornwood and Bradley.
Venerable’s expertise is on the offensive side, where he was a big proponent of the option attack. At Normal, he ran the option out of the “I” formation but that may not be the case at Central.
“I’m not sure,” Venerable said. “I like the veer option and we may have a spread option. We’re going to go to Ohio State and study their option. I have to get to know our talent better. We’ll see.”
In other words, Venerable will not try to fit square pegs into round holes. He’ll devise an offense that fits the strengths of his team.
I like the Hudster’s way of thinking.
What Venerable knows for certain is who will be directing the Knights defense: Terry McCombs, a good buddy from his days at Normal.
If McCombs, 65, wasn’t on board, it’s highly unlikely Venerable would have accepted the job.
“I needed to have my right-hand guy to be my assistant,” Venerable said of McCombs.
The other obvious key in taking on the position was whether Lincoln-Way Central, coming off a 4-5 season, has the pieces to transform itself into a winner sooner rather than later.
The Fountain of Youth has yet to be developed and Venerable and McCombs aren’t getting any younger.
“Yes, I do believe we can be a winning program,” Venerable said. “I wouldn’t have taken the position if I didn’t think so. I’m at a point in my life where I think I can do this. I want to see the program get back on the map and reach the potential people feel it can.”
Provis made it perfectly clear he expects to win, starting now.
“Hud’s won a state title before and he’s built a program,” Provis said. “This isn’t about rebuilding. It’s about winning now.”
I doubt Central can develop into a state champion in the short term. However, as long as Venerable can, at the very least, produce a consistent playoff qualifier and leave the program in a better place for the next coach, whether that’s in two years or 20, he should be commended.
What if Venerable fails to turn the program around, you ask?
He might wish that itch to coach again was a bad case of jock itch.