End of an era

By Robbie Loeb

When Vic Eumont took over the football program in 2006, the team was in a state of disarray. The last time a Wolverine squad had qualified for playoffs was in 1999, until Eumont carried the struggling program to playoffs four years straight. Eumont, the man who transformed Harvard-Westlake football from an afterthought into a contender, announced his resignation as Head Coach last week.

“I had brought this program to a new level, but now we need to take it beyond that,” Eumont said. “I think we have the opportunity for that to happen next year, and sometimes change really elevates it, or sometimes it doesn’t. You never know how things are going to work out until it happens.”

Immediately after school on Dec. 5, Eumont announced in a 10-minute private meeting with his players that he was “stepping aside” after six seasons at the helm, citing mainly his age and “family reasons.”

Eumont hopes to stay with the team as a special adviser and will continue to teach physical education.

“Well, I’m not a young man anymore,” Eumont said. “This has been a great challenge and a great opportunity here, but I feel at this point, we need somebody younger. After 43 years of coaching, it’s time for me to move to the next phase of my life.”

A search for Eumont’s replacement as head coach will begin immediately, according to the school’s statement released the day of the coach’s announcement.

Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times wrote on the Varsity Times Insider blog that “[Eumont’s retiring created] a much-desired opening, even though the Wolverines have struggled to build a football program comparable to their powerhouse basketball and baseball programs.”

The school has already received more than 20 resumes from
deeply accomplished candidates from across the country and several internal applicants, Head of Athletics Audrius Barzdukas said, who declined to name any of the candidates or say if there is a frontrunner.

Barzdukas said he will evaluate each candidate based on leadership, organization, the ability to develop young players, the cultural fit with the school and character.

Eumont believes that a new coach could attract polished football players to the school who can also handle the academic workload.

“We need someone who has knowledge of the area that can get football players into the school who can academically make it here,” Eumont said.Barzdukas said Harvard-Westlake cannot make its rise into a football powerhouse overnight. For example, the baseball team just won its first Mission League title last season under Head Coach Matt LaCour after six years with the high-profile coach.

“Our goal is not to be a powerhouse in any sport,” Barzdukas said. “The biggest mistake you can make is to say, ‘we’re going to go become a powerhouse.’ A powerhouse is an outcome. In sports, there is so much emphasis on outcome that the challenge is to stay focused on process. By putting processes and systems into place, six years later, you can be better.”

As head of the football program, Eumont was responsible for managing coaches and players for every level and spent days scouting opponents each week on top of coaching the varsity team, according to Barzdukas.

“Leading our football program is a time and energy intensive job,” Barzdukas said. “It’s a lot of bodies to keep in motion and a lot of balls to keep juggling. Eumont, from the middle of July through the end of the season, worked seven days a week. I think he got to a place where he still wants to contribute to the program, but just because of that overall administrative load, it’s time for someone else to take that on.”

This season, the Wolverines finished 5-5, and missed the playoffs after going 1-4 in the Mission League. The team has been largely uncompetitive in the Mission League since joining in 2010, winning just one of 10 games. The Wolverines were pummeled by other teams in their league this past season, including a 55-0 loss at Chaminade and a 70-21 loss against Serra. Eumont said the program wants to eventually become competitive in league after struggling against football-oriented schools.

“I think that’s a worry everybody always has around here,” Eumont said. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve understood that it’s never been what we want.”

In six seasons, Eumont amassed a 40-26-2 record. In 2006, he led the Wolverines to a Del Rey League Championship and CIF semifinals, where they lost to powerhouse Oaks Christian.

“He is someone who has taught all of us a lot,” Barzdukas said. “He has brought structure and discipline, and transformed our program. Eumont is a larger-than-life figure. If you go the Oxford English Dictionary looking for the definition of football coach, his picture is there. He will be forever remembered as the guy who transformed our football program, and I’ll look forward to him continuing to work with our football program, just not as that everyday man.”

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