BOULDER — Jeff Santee resigned as head coach of the Boulder High football team after five seasons on Friday, surprising his boss and players alike.
Santee gave BHS athletic director Melissa Warfield his resignation on Friday morning and then met with players and his staff after school.
Santee, who guided BHS to a 17-33 mark during his tenure, didn't elaborate much on his decision, saying only that there were multiple factors, a large one being the chance to spend more time with his wife and two young kids.
“It was just the right time,” Santee, 45, said.
Santee's wife Tanya is an assistant principal at Platt Middle School, and the coach said he plans to remain in his position as coordinator of BHS' Ozone academic support and credit recovery program.
Players said Friday that they'd heard buzz recently that Santee might be stepping down from his coaching duties.
“I wasn't expecting it, though,” junior outside linebacker Isaiah Freeman said. “It was a little shocking.”
Santee — who had served stints as an assistant at Regis Jesuit, Chaparral and Highlands Ranch, as well as in Oklahoma — took over a BHS program in 2008 that had gone 8-32 over the previous four seasons. (In a notable coincidence, the man Santee replaced, Spencer Colter, who led BHS for two seasons, was hired Friday to take over Denver East's football program.)
Excluding freshmen, BHS had only 33 players on the roster Santee's first season, a number that nearly doubled to 61 by 2012. With freshmen, there were 97 players on the BHS roster this past fall. But wins continued to be tough to come by despite the progress.
The Panthers went 3-7 in each of Santee's first two seasons, then turned in a pair of 4-6 campaigns before going 3-7 again in 2012. They reached the Class 5A 32-team playoffs in each of his first three seasons, losing in the first round each time.
After a promising 2-0 start in 2012, the Panthers appeared poised to turn in the program's first winning season since 2003. But injuries, including to talented senior starting quarterback TJ Patterson, ravaged the BHS roster over the next few weeks and sent the Panthers into a seven-game tailspin before they won a Week 10 consolation game against Thornton.
“I'm sad to see him go because he was the guy who gave me a shot,” said Patterson, who sat out his junior season at BHS after transferring from cross-town rival Fairview. “It was unexpected for sure.”
Extremely competitive, Santee said he wished BHS would have won more games under his watch. But he said he was proud of the effort the kids put forth and the fact that he felt like his coaching staff never wavered in trying to build a program with integrity and one that focused on developing players as students and citizens as well.
“I do feel really good about that,” Santee said.
Warfield— who also currently has head coaching openings for cross country and boys and girls golf that she's trying to fill — told football players she hopes to have Santee's replacement hired by spring break.
Warfield, who said Santee had already approached her about ways to keep trying to move the program forward for next season, admitted she was caught off-guard herself a bit by the coach's decision.
“From my time with him, I know he did a great job taking our boys and turning them into young men,” Warfield said. “I think at our level that's a key aspect of what a coach should be.”
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