SALT LAKE CITY — The high school football coaching carousel is slowly coming to a halt.
Twenty-four programs will have a new head coach for the 2019 season — including three first-year schools, Mountain Ridge (Herriman), Cedar Valley (Eagle Mountain) and Crimson Cliffs (Washington).
Of the 24 schools, Taylorsville is the only school that hasn't announced its new coach as the vacancy only opened up last week. On Tuesday Brighton hired Justin Hemm as its new football coach. He's from Ohio and last year served as Jordan's offensive coordinator.
The 24 new coaches is up significantly from the 13 changes last season even with the three new schools opening up. Only four of the changes occurred at schools that won a playoff game last year.
Some of the most notable changes occurred in Cache Valley as a wild domino effect impacted four different schools.
It started when former Sky View coach Danilo Robinson left the state to take the head coaching vacancy at South Hills High School near Los Angeles.
His vacancy was filled by Chris Howell, who had been the head coach at Ridgeline all three years since the school opened in 2016.
"Part of it is that’s kind of the area I grew up in, the other part is I taught and coached at Sky View for nine years before I went to Wyoming so a lot of it is just the opportunity to go back home to where I got my start to a place I spent a lot of time at before becoming a head coach," said Howell.
The domino effect continued with Travis Van Leeuwen then leaving Logan to take the Ridgeline job.
Bart Bowen was then hired as Logan’s new coach, which left a vacancy at Cottonwood — one of four schools in the revamped Region 6 that will have a new football coach.
"It was interesting kind of how fast all of that stuff happened too. The faces are still really familiar for the most part, it’s the colors everybody is wearing is a little different," said Howell.
Most of the 24 new coaches are occurring in just five regions: Region 2 (5 of 7 new coaches), Region 6 (4 of 7 new coaches), Region 10 (4 of 8 new coaches), Region 11 (3 of 6 new coaches) and 2A North (3 of 7 new coaches)
Despite all the changes, there’s plenty of coaching experience in the group. Eight of the new head coaches are simply moving from one Utah school to another, while three more were previously head coaches in Utah.
Three more have been a head coach in other sports, which only leaves nine coaches without head coaching experience heading into the 2019 season.
New West coach Olosaa Solovi is returning to his alma mater after an extremely successful run in multiple sports at East. As the East girls basketball head coach the past three seasons he led the program to state titles in 2018 and 2019. He was also an assistant coach for the football team for the past eight years.
“It's home for me so it's a great opportunity to help my community. I'm grateful for my time at East. It was definitely an emotional decision to leave a special place,” said Solovi, who is taking over a program that went 2-9 last season.
At the three new schools, two hired coaches with prior head coaching experience while the third went with someone with 10 years of experience at a very successful Dixie program.
Mike Meifu is leaving his West Jordan alma mater after four seasons to take over as head coach at Mountain Ridge.
"I am very excited and honored to be the first head coach at Mountain Ridge High. The opportunity to help open up a school and create our own path is something that doesn't happen very often and for that I'm very humbled. My experience with the players, parents, administration, and the community has been great."
Weston Zabriskie spent nine years as South Sevier’s head coach and that experience should help him get the new Cedar Valley pointed in the right direction.
“As a coaching staff we are so excited about starting what we feel will be a great program the community will be proud of. We know the community is excited and ready for the school to open and programs to start. The administration is great and fully supportive of the direction and vision we have for the program, so we can't wait for this fall and Aviator football,” said Zabriskie.
Jaron Tate takes over the Crimson Cliffs program after serving as an assistant at Dixie High for 10 years. He was on staff when the team won titles in 2012 and 2014.
Here’s a look at the 24 schools with new coaches for the 2019 season:6 comments on this story
- Altamont: Ben Felder — Previous coach at Altamont (2015-2016)
- Ben Lomond: Lyndon Johnson — Former basketball head coach at Brighton, Northridge
- Brighton: TBD
- Cedar Valley: Weston Zabriskie — South Sevier head coach (2010-2018)
- Cottonwood: Casey Miller — Previous assistant coach at Cottonwood
- Crimson Cliffs: Jaron Tate — Assistant coach the past 10 years at Dixie
- Cyprus: Tyler Garcia — Assistant coach at Kearns the past four years
- Granger: Pala Vaitu'u — Taylorsville head coach (2015-2017)
- Gunnison Valley: Patrick King — Assistant at three schools in Florida, most recently at Cedar Creek
- Hillcrest: Brock Bryant — Assistant at Olympus, Hunter and most recently at Cyprus
- Judge Memorial: Will Hawes — Previous head coach at Layton Christian (2007-2011) and Clearfield (2012-2013)
- Layton Christian: Fotu Katoa — First-time head coach
- Logan: Bart Bowen — Cottonwood head coach (2017-2018)
- Mountain Ridge: Mike Meifu — West Jordan head coach (2015-2018)
- Ridgeline: Travis Van Leeuwen — Logan head coach (2018)
- Sky View: Christopher Howell — Ridgeline head coach (2016-2018)
- Skyline: Mike Carlson — Assistant coach at Skyline since 2010, played on 2005 title team
- South Sevier: John Ramage — Assistant at several colleges and high schools, most recently at South Sevier
- Stansbury: Eric Alder — Ben Lomond head coach (2014-2018)
- Taylorsville: TBD
- Tooele: Andru Jones — Layton Christian head coach (2016-2018)
- Weber: Jayson Anderson — Logan head coach (2016-2017), previous assistant at Weber
- West: Olosaa Solovi — Assistant at East for eight years, past three years as East’s girls basketball coach
- West Jordan: Carson Mund — Prior assistant at Weber, Logan and most recently at Box Elder