Rick Curtis was fired as Santa Margarita's football coach on Thursday.
“The new president is moving in a different direction,” Curtis said by text message.
Perhaps that different direction would be a previous direction -- former Santa Margarita coaches Jim Hartigan and Harry Welch are highly-regarded by Santa Margarita supporters, past and present.
A statment from Santa Margarita included: After a great deal of discussion and discernment, Santa Margarita Catholic High School (SMCHS) has decided that its football program will be better served under new leadership. Effective immediately, Rick Curtis will no longer act as head football coach or have any formal role at SMCHS."
Curtis coached the Eagles for two seasons. They were 11-10 overall and 3-7 in the Trinity League during his tenure.
Santa Margarita this season finished last in the six-team Trinity League with a 1-4 league record. The Eagles lost their final three league games to, in order, Orange Lutheran, Servite and Mater Dei. They also lost to St. John Bosco; the league win was over JSerra.
In their final game, the Eagles lost to Mater Dei, 45-14. Stanford-bound quarterback KJ Costello was under severe pressure as Mater Dei recorded eight sacks.
Curtis released a statement that read in part:"Our players and staff were great to work with and I want to thank them for their dedication and hard work. While the time was short, we are proud of our ethical standards, the progress we made in all areas of the football program, and how we honored God in doing so. I also want to thank the parents that supported me and I wish the players great success in moving forward."
Curtis was Northwood’s coach for 13 years, from the school’s opening through the 2013 season. He previously coached at Irvine, Laguna Hills, University and Servite.
The names that will be prominent on social media as possible successors are Hartigan and Welch.
Hartigan, the coach at JSerra, was the first coach at Santa Margarita, 1989-2002. Santa Margarita president Andy Sulick, who was an assistant coach at Santa Margarita in the 1990s and later was director of admissions at JSerra, is known to have a good relationship with Hartigan. Hartigan, though, has three children at JSerra, is the school’s athletic director and receives excellent administrative support there.
Welch was hired at Santa Margarita after the school fired Mike Jacot following the 2009 season when the Eagles finished in last place. In 2010, Santa Margarita finished second in the Trinity League, defeated Mater Dei in the final week of the regular season, and defeated Edison in the first round of the Pac-5 playoffs before losing to Mission Viejo in the second round.
Welch coached at Santa Margarita from 2010-13. He compiled a 35-14 record and led the Eagles to CIF section and state championships in 2011. Welch retired following the 2013 season.
Since his ’13 retirement, Welch has stated his retirement is permanent. He has enjoyed the opportunity to travel. Welch was in the stands, wearing a Santa Margarita jacket, seated among Santa Margarita football parents, at Santa Margarita’s season-ending loss to Mater Dei last week.
Welch said he would not pursue the Santa Margarita job. But he would return if the school needs him.
"If asked," Welch said, "I would serve."
Tom Restelli, whose son Mark played football at Santa Margarita before Welch's tenure there and later played in the Canadian Football League, emailed that he saw Welch today at a Trabuco Canyon supermarket.
Restelli, who said he is rooting for Welch's return at Santa Margarita, included in his email that at the supermarket Welch was in Santa Margarita garb.
As Restelli worded it, Welch "was dressed like he was ready to pose for an SM Football brochure front page."