Two high schools on Tucson’s north side will be looking for new coaches for their football programs after resignations were announced last week.
Longtime Ironwood Ridge High School football coach Matt Johnson and Mountain View High School’s Clarence “Bam” McRae each confirmed with Tucson Local Media they would be resigning from their respective programs.
Johnson announced the news via his personal Facebook account the morning of Thursday, Jan. 10. Johnson coached the Nighthawks to their first state championship in 2012, and finished with an 85-35 record at the Oro Valley high school over the course of 10 seasons.
Johnson expressed his desire to move on from the Oro Valley high school as a decision that would be beneficial to all involved.
“I feel the program is in a great place moving forward, in terms of the talent level,” Johnson said. “I really enjoy the administration here at Ironwood Ridge, and I’ve talked with them about what I think they need to do moving forward for them and for the kids.”
Johnson believes that now is the perfect time to move on for his players as well, with the program on solid ground.
“I think it was a good opportunity for me to go, and for me to go find a new challenge, for me to find something else to do, start something new,” he said. “I love building programs, I love starting new things. It was just one of those things where after 10 years, I felt like I had run my course and was ready for a new challenge.”
IRHS Athletic Director Tony Jacobsen thanked Johnson for his contributions to the school, calling him one of the greatest leaders in school history.
“I am grateful for the honor to have worked with Coach Johnson for the past five years,” Jacobsen said in an email. “Matt has been the epitome of leadership and class here at Ironwood Ridge and we are grateful for his service to the hundreds of kids that have come through the football program. Matt is a gem in the Tucson community, he will continue to shine no matter what he chooses to do next. We wish him and his family the very best.”
Johnson expressed an interest in coaching again in the future should the right opportunity present itself.
He said he’s not open to leaving the Tucson area, however, as his family is rooted in the area.
“There’s a lot of jobs that are open, and I’ve also got a lot of friends that run programs, so I might be a head coach, I might be an assistant coach,” Johnson said. “I’ll just kind of wait and see what happens in terms of opportunities and what’s the best fit for next year.”
Johnson said the highlight of his decade at IRHS was watching the program take shape, becoming one of the most consistent in the city. He’s confident the team will soar to new heights under its next coach, with a solid dedication to the sport.
That confidence stems from the influx of athletic talent in Oro Valley, with a glut of underclassmen that are ready to shine for whoever takes the reigns at Ironwood Ridge.
“I think the biggest thing would be just to continue working hard and believing in themselves, because they’ve got a ton of ability and they’re great kids,” Johnson said. “I have no doubt that they’re going to be successful in the future, both on and off the field.”
Fellow Tucson stalwart and Mountain View’s coach since 2012, McRae also announced his resignation last week after he was not retained by the school’s administration.
McRae went 31-21 with the Lions, and took the team to the state playoffs in 2016 and 2017, finishing 7-4 in each campaign. His 2018 team finished 5-5, winning five straight games to close out the season.
McRae thanked his players and staff for their efforts over the last half-decade, calling his time at Mountain View an enjoyable experience.
“I enjoyed my time at Mountain View and wish the best for the scholar athletes within the program,” McRae said.
Mountain View Athletic Director Nathan Orelup thanked McRae for everything he accomplished with the Lions during his tenure.
“Mountain View thanks Coach McRae for his time and service and all the great things he did for the students over the last seven years,” Orelup said. “We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.”
McRae announced he’s taken the athletic director role at Marana’s Leman Academy of Excellence, where he will oversee the K-8 school’s programs.
“I’m young, so I’ll be around and coaching for a long time,” McRae said.