For a moment it looked as if head football coach Eric Rice was all but gone. It seemed as if he would be there one day, but the next, be gone. But amid hotly contested suspensions and various run-ins with the administration, Coach Rice has survived.
Coach Rice was in hot water before the 2011 football season started. Rice was suspended by the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) for the first two games for having his players practice in helmets for three practices at the beginning of August.
“I wanted to keep the kids safe,” Rice explained. “We had an incident in fall 2010 that ended in two players having to go to the hospital and receive stitches above their eyes because they collided during a no-helmets practice. I thought, and many coaches agreed, that if we were wearing helmets that would not have happened.”
The helmet issue did not end there. Another blow was dealt to the team after Rice’s Oct. 5 meeting with CHSAA officials where they said that the Lambkin football team, previously restricted from the postseason, would be allowed to participate in the playoffs, but Rice would not be allowed to coach.
“I thought it was unfair,” sophomore free safety Riley Waldie said. “They had already suspended him (Rice) for the first two games, suspending him for the playoffs was unfair especially since the playoffs are the most crucial time of the year and we ended up going against the number one seed.”
The team’s troubles did not end there. During the season, Fossil Ridge High School was warned about and told to stop having a coach-led prayer in their locker room before games. Soon after, Rice received a call in which he was asked if he also led a prayer in his locker room before games.
“I wasn’t going to lie,” Rice said. “I said that we do say a prayer before games, and then I was basically told that we needed to change it to being player-led and not to have coaches in the locker room while it was happening.”
All of that led to Rice having to meet with Principal Mark Eversole on Nov. 15.
“In the meeting Mr. Eversole basically laid out ways that the program needed to be changed for the better,” Rice said.
Rice’s plan for how to make the program better was explained in a second meeting on Nov. 28, where no decision was officially made, but Rice was told that a final decision would be made on Dec. 5.
The decision to retain Rice has been met with much support from players.
“I was relieved and happy to because he has been a mentor and father figure to me,” senior lineman DJ Bresette said. “I have seen how much football means to him and I would hate to see him without it.”
Many more players and students share the same reverence for Rice. They showed that by scheduling a meeting with Eversole and drafting a petition to show their support.
“I wrote it (the petition) because even though I am a senior, I felt that it is complete BS that the administration is even considering letting Coach Rice go,” senior offensive lineman Kalani Kayser, author of the petition which was signed by 87 players and students, said. “It (the petition) said how the amount of good things that he’s done for the team outweighs by far the minor infractions that he has committed. It also said that they could never find another coach like Rice.
Players are pleased that their actions through the meeting and petition did not go unnoticed and they will not have to endure a coaching change in the foreseeable future.
“I was really happy because I like Coach Rice personally, he’s my position coach, and I have learned a lot from him directly,” Waldie said. “I think that we will have the same traditions we have always had, and we will stay good, which is really good.”