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A ship without captains

Football co-coaches resign amid turmoil
Clear Creek Amana (CCA) co-head football coach Matt Hughes talks to players during the 2016 season. Hughes and his father, Ronnie, both resigned Tuesday, March 21, leaving the CCA football team without a coach. (file photo by Chris Umscheid)

North Liberty Leader
By Chris Umscheid
TIFFIN– Clear Creek Amana (CCA) varsity football co-head coaches Ronnie and Matt Hughes resigned Tuesday, March 21. Matt Hughes posted his letter of resignation on the program’s Facebook page saying, “Today was one of the toughest decisions I have had to make because this community and its kids mean so much to me. There are many reasons behind my decision that most of you will not ever know- but please know and understand that I’m doing what I feel is in the best interest of the kids of CCA and my family.”
The father and son duo took over the program in 2013 in the wake of Rodney Walls’ resignation at the end of the 2012 season. Hughes was an assistant at Solon and Iowa City West, as well as the University of South Dakota. And, he was a three-year starter at the University of Iowa under coach Hayden Fry. Ronnie came to Clear Creek with over 40 years of coaching experience, including coaching Matt in high school.
The Hughes’ philosophy went beyond putting wins in the record book. In an August 2013 interview, Matt said his first priority was to create good people. He explained football teaches many life skills and can be a valuable tool in character development.
“They’ll walk away knowing football but they’ll also be contributing members of society. That’s priority number one,” he said.
The Clippers went 4-5 their first season with the father-and-son duo and improved to 7-2 in 2014, picking up the first district championship in school history in the process.
“That’s due to the kids,” Matt said in 2014. “The kids have bought-in, they’re ready to start a new tradition here, and we’ve shown them the way.” But, he added, “They had to take the first step, and they had to keep on walking with it… and that’s really what’s happened.”
The Creek Boys went 5-5 in 2015, third in the district behind 9-3 Davenport Assumption and 7-3 Washington. The Clippers made the playoffs, but lost in the first round to Maquoketa.
Last year, CCA went 5-2 in district play with a 7-2 record overall. However under a new playoff format, the Clippers were denied postseason play as only the top two teams (West Delaware and Davenport Assumption) in CCA’s district advanced. The Clippers again were third in the final standings in their district.
CCA had a 6-0 record, a first for the program, during the 2016 season. Rough seas hit the Clippers earlier this year after two volunteer assistant coaches left the program in January, resulting in unrest on social media, rumors and spoken comments disparaging the program.
On Jan. 29, Matt Hughes took to Facebook in an attempt to quell the turmoil.
“Believe me, I know and have heard a lot of things lately that are going around that do not shed the type of positive light on our program that it deserves. I have stayed quiet because I don’t believe in spreading negativity and my hope was that all of this would quiet down with time,” he wrote. “Have we done everything right all the time? Not at all- perfection is an impossible task. I can, however, say that I’m proud of what our program and its coaches and players have done over these past four seasons. I can also say that there is not one single thing that I would have done differently as EVERY decision that has been made has been with our players being #1 priority- nothing else matters.”
He stressed the effort made by the athletes in changing the culture of CCA football and becoming leaders both on the field and in the community. Matt also pointed out 15 of 75 seniors (during the past four years) had gone on to play college football, a testament to colleges realizing the quality of Clipper athletes. He also thanked those who supported the program.
“With all that has gone on lately, my goal here is to let everyone know that our kids have done an amazing job and they deserve our praise and positive remarks. Anything less than this is an injustice to what so many kids have worked so hard to create over the past 4 1/2 years. My hope is that, as a community of parents and fans, we can take a step back and understand that negative talk can crush a positive culture. As a coaching staff- we have really enjoyed and appreciated the support these past four years and hope that what these kids have accomplished can be realized and the negativity can stop so our kids can continue building a program of first class CCA Clippers.”
In a March 22 email, Matt Hughes said leaving was a tough decision to make.
“But I do believe it was what was in the best interest of all involved. There was a lot that factored into my decision,” he wrote. “I really enjoyed my four years at CCA. The support from the community was amazing and the hard work that the kids put in everyday made every second worthwhile to me. It was a great run and the groundwork has been laid to really turn CCA into a powerhouse in the future.”
CCA Superintendent Tim Kuehl said Thursday, March 23, the head coach position has been advertised.
“Now, the search begins. It’s a loss to us, no doubt. I’m optimistic we can reload with some more high quality folks,” Kuehl said.
“I can honestly say in my four years here, and Matt and Ronnie’s four years here, we had zero complaints from parents about anything football related, which is unheard of,” Kuehl added.
At Kuehl’s previous district, Gladbrook-Reinbeck, even with a successful program (three years straight making it to the football championships), complaints were common, he said.
“We (CCA) had none of that,” he noted.
Full text of Matt Hughes’ resignation letter as posted on Facebook Tuesday, March 21:
“CCA parents, fans and players both current and past- I just wanted to say THANK YOU for allowing my dad and me to be a part of your community for the past four seasons. It has been an unbelievable journey in which so many positive memories were made. Today was one of the toughest decisions I have had to make because this community and its kids mean so much to me. There are many reasons behind my decision that most of you will not ever know- but please know and understand that I’m doing what I feel is in the best interest of the kids of CCA and my family.
To the fans and community- thank you for your endless support of our program. From attending our fundraisers to filling up the stands on Friday nights (even in the rain) to cheer on the team- it did not go unnoticed- this is a special community that will continue to build to greatness.
To the administration- thank you so much for your support over the years. I can’t think of a better school system with better leaders in the entire state. There is a reason this area is growing so much- it’s because the word is out about how special this place is and the quality of school system that is provided.
Lastly, to all the players we have been fortunate enough to coach- THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. You are what I will miss most. You amazed me with your dedication and commitment to turning this program around. As coaches, we could only point you in the direction and say “trust us”- this happens all over the country every day and typically falls upon deaf ears. That didn’t happen here- you trusted and you put in the work to be the best that you could be- both on AND off the field. I have no doubt that this trend will continue because you are Champions and you have done so much to be proud of. I wouldn’t change one thing about my time with each of you. I want you to know and understand that I will ALWAYS be here for you however I can. Finally, please remember the most important traits to a successful life- be respectful of yourself and others, be trustworthy in all that you do and be loyal to those worthy of your loyalty. It’s been a great ride- thank you.”
It was a tough decision to make, but I do believe it was what was the best interest of all involved. There was a lot that factored into my decision, but no need to really go into all those details. I really enjoyed my four years at CCA. The support from the community was amazing and the hard work that the kids put in every day made every second worthwhile to me. It was a great run and the groundwork has been laid to really turn CCA into a powerhouse in the future.”