Ravell Call, Deseret News
MURRAY — Greg Croshaw and Alan Parrish have never met.
But the two men are now allies in the effort to heal a football program, a school and a community that has been battered by controversy and tragedy.
"It's going to be a challenge, no doubt about it," said Croshaw, who was hired as the Colts' new head football coach this weekend by Parrish, who was hired as the school's new principal just a few days earlier. "They've gone through so much. My focus is going to be to do everything I can so they have a chance to be successful."
Croshaw acknowledges the turmoil that has saturated the program, and that it has been especially tough for the team's seniors.
In summer 2010, newly hired head coach Teko Johnson died of a heart attack just before the season began. Receivers coach Josh Lyman took over as interim head coach, and Lyman was hired as permanent head coach in 2011.
Lyman was placed on administrative leave in early May due to allegations of inappropriate contact with a female student. Lyman was cleared of any wrongdoing in a criminal investigation, but he resigned amid the district's administrative investigation, which ended the probe. Eric C. Eyre, an assistant coach, resigned after he was charged with assault in April. On Saturday morning, offensive line coach Mike Gallegos was killed by an allegedly drunk driver. Gallegos had worked in the program for five years.
The one constant the players have had is offensive coordinator Scott Cate, who has worked as a volunteer coach under the last three coaches. In fact, it was Cate who discussed the death of Gallegos with the players Monday morning.
But Cate will no longer be coaching at the school after Granite District officials decided to change the district's donation and fundraising policy to forbid boosters from serving in coaching positions.
"There is a necessity for this type of buffer between donations and staff," said Granite spokesman Ben Horsley. "It's been a very difficult decision for the district, especially considering the tremendous support he's been to the school and the program."
With three of the coaches they know and love gone, both Croshaw and Parrish acknowledge their task of moving forward will be difficult.
"We know we have some issues to confront," Parrish said. "The seniors on this team have had to deal with two deaths. They've had to do some really hard things, go through some tough issues, but we think they're capable of coming through this. And we had to name a head coach regardless of the situation as tragic as it was."
Croshaw may be unfamiliar to the Cottonwood Community, but Parrish is not. He said he saw the job opening at Cottonwood as a "tremendous opportunity."
"When the opportunity came about, I was very interested regardless of the circumstances," said Parrish, who has been in education for 31 years and has previously taught and coached at Cottonwood. "It's a unique situation. But I was a classroom instructor and (assistant football coach for four years) coach from 1983 to 1990 and then from 1997-2002. I am loyal to Cottonwood, and I enjoyed my time there. I believe our community is a great mixture of great academics, great athletics and I'm excited to come back."
Parrish acknowledges his return comes amid unusual and controversial circumstances after former Cottonwood principal Mitch Nerdin was transferred to Hunter High early last week. Nerdin led the school for two years.
"There were just a number of issues," said Granite spokesman Horsley, who declined to give specifics about the problems. "It was a combination of things that came together at the same time. Both he and the administration felt it would be best if he transferred from Cottonwood High School. And since there were no lateral positions open, he accepted an assistant principalship at Hunter High School. The next available principal's job that opens, it's expected that he will fill that."
Croshaw said he threw his hat in the ring because all three of his sons live in Salt Lake County. His oldest son, T.D. Croshaw, coaches at Olympus High.
"I had some reservations because of the kids I'd recruited," he said of only coaching a year at Mesa Community College. "I felt a little like I was abandoning ship. But the family thing was persuasive. At this stage, I want to be closer to my kids and grandkids."
He said the players will be his priority when he meets with parents, staff and students on Thursday. Parrish said he will be at that meeting to help Croshaw answer any questions.
"My No. 1 concern is for the well-being of those kids," said Croshaw, who didn't even know who Alabama-committed quarterback Cooper Bateman was before applying for the job. "Whatever it takes to put them in as comfortable a position as possible, I'm going to do. It's been a whirlwind."
Parrish is confident Croshaw is an able partner in helping him heal the team, the school and the community.
"We believe he is going to have the maturity, expertise, wisdom and energy to take a program that's one of the top-notch programs in the state, in a time of upheaval and help them move forward," Parrish said. "I consider it a privilege and an honor to be back at Cottonwood, and we'll get through this and we'll do it successfully."