Football: Mark Crabtree steps back after two decades at Dublin Coffman

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Mark Crabtree stepped down Jan. 14 after 20 seasons as Dublin Coffman football coach. He went 179-55 with the Shamrocks, including 22-17 in 18 postseason appearances.

After coaching football for 39 years, Mark Crabtree knew it was time.

The fires that once burned had become embers. So, on Jan. 14, Crabtree stepped down as coach at Dublin Coffman after 20 seasons. He believed that giving less than 100 percent would be unfair to his players.

“Don’t think anyone can predict when it’s time (to resign), but I felt strongly over the last couple of months that it’s the right thing to do,” said Crabtree, who went 179-55 with the Shamrocks. “I would like to think that I would give all of my effort. I ask the same of players and if I’m questioning whether I’m giving my best effort, maybe it’s time to take a step back and pass it on to someone else.

“We have great people, great kids, great coaches and great administrators here. So things will be fine. Certain parts haven’t hit me yet. I love football and there are things that I’ll miss, but our kids deserve the absolute best they can get.”

Under Crabtree, the Shamrocks reached the postseason 18 times with a 22-17 record. His teams also won seven league championships.

“Coach has meant a lot to me,” said Gunnar Hoak, a 2016 graduate who played quarterback at Kentucky and Ohio State. “He wasn’t just there to help his athletes on the football field but to help them grow off the field as men. He took great pride in that.”

Aside from Hoak, Crabtree helped develop several college quarterbacks, including Brady Quinn (2003 graduate; Notre Dame), Jack Rafferty (2004; Western Kentucky/Otterbein), Josh Febus (2005; Ohio University), Zack Stoudt (2008; Louisville/Mississippi), Cole Stoudt (2011; Clemson) and James Walsh (2013; Boston College).

The Shamrocks finished 8-1 last fall, losing to Olentangy Liberty 18-15 in a Division I, Region 2 semifinal. Senior Connor Mathews was a two-year starter at quarterback on that squad.

“Coach turned me from a kid playing quarterback in middle school to an actual quarterback,” Mathews said. “I never took anything he said lightly. I trusted and believed everything he said because of everything he had done before I had gotten there.”

Curtis Crager, the defensive coordinator for Crabtree since 2011, said Coffman will have to find a new face of the program.

“He is Coffman football,” Crager said. “When they think of Coffman football, they think of Mark Crabtree. He started the tradition of Coffman football and the tradition of excellence. He’s a better husband and father than a coach. We are saddened by his decision, but we understand.”

Athletics director Duane Sheldon said the selection committee would have a big challenge in replacing Crabtree, and it’s not something that can be rushed.

“After 20 years and the success Mark has had, he has earned the respect of the coaches in the area and obviously the players that played for him,” Sheldon said. “He was not only successful on the field, but he did a lot for a lot of young people.

“We have already opened (the search) and hopefully in the next few weeks we’ll have an idea of what’s going on. Any time you look for a head coach at a school like Coffman, you’re looking for someone who has a passion for the sport and the willingness to put in the time and to relate to the kids. We don’t have a timeline, we just want to make the right selection.”

Crabtree’s overall coaching record is 228-74 and 26-21 in the playoffs. He led Fisher Catholic from 1995-98, going 36-11 and 4-3 in the postseason. He then coached St. Charles in 1999 and 2000, going 13-8 and 0-1 in the playoffs.

After nearly four decades in coaching, Crabtree isn’t willing to say that he’ll never coach again.

“You can never say never,” he said. “How many times do you see people say that they won’t coach, and then they come back? You never know what’s out there, and you can’t paint yourself in a corner like that.

“Here’s what I know. I’m done coaching now at Dublin Coffman ... and I’m still teaching (intervention) there. I’m not sure what lies ahead, but we’ll have to see.”

Crabtree and his wife, Jennifer, have four children: Evan, a graduate assistant coach at Miami University; Luke, a linebacker at Ashland; Kenzie, a freshman at Ohio State; and Dane, an eighth-grader at Sells Middle School.

“Dane plays linebacker and will be a freshman this fall,” Mark Crabtree said. “I talked to him and he’s good with it. I’ll just be another dad.”

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