Heglar resigns as Mercer Island football coach

Mercer Island head football coach, Bill Heglar, resigned on Thursday, taking the athletic director's position at Kentlake High School because of a lack of teaching opportunities at Mercer Island High School.

Mercer Island head football coach, Bill Heglar, resigned on Thursday, taking the athletic director’s position at Kentlake High School because of a lack of teaching opportunities at Mercer Island High School.

“It is a bittersweet thing for me,” said Heglar. “I needed to be able to coach and teach. Without a teaching position, there just isn’t enough there for me to support my family.”

Heglar will be replaced by interim head coach John Williams, who was brought on as an assistant coach during the spring.

“There just isn’t enough time to find a permanent replacement,” said Mercer Island High School Athletic Director Craig Olson, who contacted Mercer Island High School teacher and Skyline assistant coach Brett Ogata and retired Mercer Island head coach and current Eastlake assistant coach Dick Nicholl about taking the job. “Both are happy where they are this season. We will open up the search in January. But our first priority is to find someone who will be able to [both] teach and coach at the high school.”

Heglar replaced Nicholl, who coached at the high school for 33 seasons.

“Bill was the right choice for the job,” said Olson. “We didn’t realize that he needed a full-time position until a few weeks after the hire.”

The issue of a teaching position was one that almost discouraged Heglar from accepting the job last year. But the school administration was able to find a place for Heglar last August. With cuts in the budget and seven positions eliminated this coming school year, however, Heglar’s teaching hours were cut even more.

“We kind of knew this was coming during the spring,” said Olson. “We tried to find him additional classes, but it just wasn’t there. Bill did a lot to change the mindset of a lot of kids in the program. I think we could be pretty good this season.”

Heglar’s move to athletic director is the second in his long career. He was the head football coach and athletic director at Decatur High School in Federal Way for one season. But Heglar said he will miss the Mercer Island community and the one-on-one interaction in coaching and teaching.

“I am really fortunate to find a job in this economy,” said Heglar. “I am just disappointed it couldn’t be at Mercer Island. I thought my position would open up to full-time, but it was going to be cut down to just one class. This is the hardest thing I have ever gone through.”

Williams’ high school-level head coaching experience is limited to a stint at Chief Sealth High School in West Seattle. He has also been the assistant coach at Eastlake High School. But Williams’ experience in football goes far beyond the high school level as he was a captain at the University of Wisconsin and played for the Seahawks, Broncos and New Orleans Saints in the NFL. Williams also took part in a Minnesota Viking coaching internship program.

“I hope that [the Islanders] have a really good record because the kids have worked hard this summer,” said Williams.

The Islanders’ first game will be on Sept. 5.

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