ST. GEORGE – Desert Hills High School is looking for a new head football coach after Carl Franke was relieved of his duties Wednesday.
Franke, who was the head coach for the Thunder for six years, compiled a record of 50-20 (71.4 winning percentage), including an impressive 11-4 record (73.3 percent) in the state playoffs. Franke’s teams won state championships in 2013 and 2016, notably winning both contests over region rival Pine View on the last play of the game.
The Desert Hills administration, through athletic director Troy Coil, released the following statement:
“As you may have heard today, the administration at Desert Hills High School has elected to make a change to our football program. We would like to thank Coach Franke and his staff for their time and efforts with our student/athletes over the last six years. It is truly appreciated. We will open the position in the next couple of weeks and anticipate a selection to facilitate a smooth transition moving forward.”
When queried on if he could comment on the reason for Franke’s dismissal, Coil replied, “Not at this time.”
Desert Hills principal Rusty Taylor said the move is part of the business of running a school.
“Every year, with all the coaches in every sport, we look at the programs and evaluate if that’s what’s best for that program,” he said. “We felt like the football program was ready for a change. There was nothing specific. We just felt like it was time for a change.”
Franke coached many outstanding athletes while at Desert Hills, including Mike Needham and Ty Rutledge, who both went on to star for Southern Utah University, and Nephi and Gabriel Sewell, who were stars for the University of Nevada. More recently, Franke has aided in the recruitment process for his senior offensive lineman, Penei Sewell. Sewell is being recruited by such banner NCAA football programs as Alabama and USC, among many others.
Despite that, Taylor said the timing was right for the change.
“Their season just wrapped up and they were able to finish with their banquet,” he said. “And the hiring season is coming up for us starting in February and March. If there is ever a down time for football it is right about now. If we were going to make this decision, this is the best time to do it so that those who may be interested in filling the position will be able put things together.”
Franke said the decision was a bit stunning to him.
“We met yesterday after school and when they told me they were going to go a different direction, I was a little bit stubborn at first,” he said. “Obviously, with all the work I’ve put into program to make it so it’s really well run and and respected around the state, I was not ready to let that go.”
He said after discussing the situation with his family, he was ready to accept his new role.
“Right now, I’m going to stay here at Desert Hills, teaching and being supportive to the students and athletes here,” he said. “I’ll always be Coach Franke and my door will always be open for those that need some counsel or someone to talk to.”
Last season, the Thunder went 6-5, placing third in Region 9 behind Dixie and Pine View. Desert Hills defeated Bonneville 45-13 in the first round of the 4A playoffs, but were then eliminated by Orem 37-17, despite outgaining the Tigers and rushing for 333 yards.
Franke, who teaches physical education and weight training at the high school, will retain his position as a teacher.
As for the future, Taylor and his staff will begin a statewide search for a new coach, while Franke is keeping his options open.
“I’m not going to jab at just any coaching job,” he said. “Already, in just the last day or so I’ve gotten a lot of offers and opportunities. But we love it here. My wife’s from here and my kids love living here, so it would have to be a vertical move, not a lateral move for me to be interested. I know I’m a good coach and still have a lot more to offer, teaching and influencing young men.”
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