CHAMPAIGN — Nate Albaugh met with his football players from Milford and Cissna Park a week ago.
The Bearcats coach delivered news that left a pall among the players.
He was leaving to become the new coach at Champaign Central.
“That’s the hardest day I’ve had in the past two years,” Albaugh said Friday after his hiring as the Maroons coach became official. “This past week has all been a whirlwind. It was very difficult to tell them that, and it was a sad day. I’m very excited about the possibility of the future, and I hope I never have to leave anyone like that again.”
A future that consists of trying to bring stability and wins back to Central, which has not won a playoff game since 1982. Albaugh is the program’s fourth coach in the last five seasons, and the Maroons are coming off an 0-9 season last fall under interim coach Brett Roberts, who replaced Ira Jefferson after Jefferson resigned after two seasons late last May.
Central athletic director John Woods said the school received applications from 55 candidates, and the pool was winnowed to eight who interviewed before three finalists were selected.
“We had several fantastic candidates,” Woods said. “Nate was a solid candidate from the beginning. His leadership qualities and his experience really stood out, along with his X’s and O’s and what he wants to accomplish. His passion for coaching football really put him over the top.”
Albaugh is no stranger to the head coaching ranks. He had two separate two-season stints leading Milford/Cissna Park, taking the Bearcats to the Class 1A playoffs last season and the Class 2A playoffs in 2009. He left Milford/Cissna Park after the 2009 season and served as the head coach at Alton for the 2010 season, guiding the Redbirds to a 2-7 record before he came back to coach Milford/Cissna Park. He will start the 2013 season with a 25-22 overall record.
The daunting task of trying to turn around a Central program that finished only its second winless season in school history last year doesn’t faze Albaugh. Milford had not made the playoffs since 1998 before Albaugh — who had previous stints as an assistant coach at Monticello, Grant and Johnsburg — became head coach.
“I personally don’t know anything different,” Albaugh said. “Every program I’ve taken over has been in a similar situation. Central is not a dead program. I know they had very good numbers last year, and everything I heard about Coach Roberts is he did a great job. They’ve had some tough times just in the transition of coaches, and that’s always tough on any program. They’ve definitely gone through some struggles.”
Albaugh didn’t disclose what type of offense or defense he wants to implement at Central, and Woods said he will work with Albaugh in selecting a staff for Central’s new coach. Woods said Albaugh, who does not teach at Milford, will have a position at Central, but “that’s going to be determined at a later date.”
Woods said Albaugh plans to meet with prospective players after school Monday and get started on offseason work right away.
“That’s going to be our first homework assignment is building that staff, but he really wants to meet the guys,” Woods said. “He really is anxious to meet the guys and meet the parents, along with other stakeholders in the community.”
Albaugh said he and his wife, who currently live in Hoopeston, plan to move to Champaign.
“My wife and I have long been interested in getting to Champaign,” Albaugh said. “We had pretty much determined we would stay where we are now, but this opportunity came up, and we were both very excited about it.”
Nate Albaugh is the fifth Champaign Central football coach since 2001. A look at how the last four fared:
Name Year(s) Record
Brett Roberts 2012 0-9
Ira Jefferson 2010-11 7-11
Dave Jacobs 2005-09 21-27
Jeff Hasenstab 2001-04 19-19
Albaugh by the years
Year School Record
2012 Milford/CP 6-4
2011 Milford/CP 4-5
2010 Alton 2-7
2009 Milford/CP 8-2
2008 Milford/CP 5-4