In a move that surprised some, Jamie Rigdon was promoted to athletic director/head football coach at six-man power Richland Springs in a specially called school board meeting Wednesday.
It had been widely speculated on the internet and social media that former Richland Springs head coach Jerry Burkhart, who guided the Coyotes to eight six-man state championships from 2004-2016, would return for his third stint as head coach.
“Jerry Burkhart was not in the mix,” Richland Springs superintendent Don Fowler said Thursday. “We had two applications and Coach Burkhart was not one of them.”
That a tradition-rich program like Richland Springs had only two applicants was another source of speculation for Burkhart’s return since many qualified candidates figured it was a done deal.
Burkhart, currently is an assistant coach at Rankin, put up a 192-10 record with eight state championships with the Coyotes from 2003-2017.The eight state titles tie Richland Springs with 11-man powers Katy, Southlake Carroll and Celina for the most in state history.
Rigdon was an assistant football coach at Richland Springs last season, when the Coyotes finished 11-2. He also was the head boys’ basketball coach for 2018-2019. He is a former college baseball coach at Savannah State in Georgia and a former high school baseball coach in Florida.
“He’s very knowledgeable, and he has been an athletic director before,” Fowler said of Rigdon. “He has coached at the college level, and he’s just very knowledgeable.”
Rigdon has three sons and a daughter enrolled in the Richland Springs ISD, including 2018 varsity football starters Matthew, who will be a junior spreadback next season, and Griffin, who will be a sophomore tailback. The Rigdon brothers helped Richland Springs to an 11-2 record and a berth in the Class 1A Division II state quarterfinals last season -- in what was expected to be a rebuilding year.
“We didn’t expect to go too far in the playoffs last year,” Fowler said. “We lost our first game to May and we were losing our third game (against Aquilla). But our kids sucked it up and turned things around. We’ve got good country kids that won’t quit.”
The 2018 Coyotes, with only two seniors on their roster, won 11 consecutive games after losing their opener. So obviously, expectations will be high again next season.
Thomas Tipton, a longtime Richland Springs assistant, was promoted to head coach for the 2018 season, but his contract as athletic director/head coach was not renewed for the 2019-2020 school year, Fowler said. Tipton was offered a teacher’s contract for 2019-2020. Fowler said Tipton is remaining at Richland Springs as AD through the spring semester and is currently coaching track.
“I don’t know if he’ll stay or not,” Fowler said of Tipton. “He’s an excellent science teacher, as good as I’ve seen.
“We believe that athletics and academics go hand in hand. We’ve good kids and good programs. I appreciate that. I’ve lived here since 1981, and I have a vested interest in the school and the community. In watching a lot of six-man playoff games over the years, I’ve seen some of the best student-athletes in Texas.”
Burkhart left Richland Springs after the 2017 season to make the rare coaching move from six-man to 11-man at Class 3A Division II Stanton. However, he didn’t make it through the 2018 season at Stanton after continued threats toward his son, sophomore running back Landon Burkhart, by another Stanton student.
Burkhart remained as Stanton’s coach, but withdrew his son at midseason and enrolled him at Sterling City, a six-man school 60 miles southeast of Stanton. Burkhart later resigned as Stanton’s coach with three games remaining in the 2018 season, and moved to Rankin.
Burkhart also left Richland Springs in 2013 for Gordon, another six-man school. But he left Gordon after only a week and was rehired by Richland Springs. That prior occurrence helped fuel speculation that Burkhart would return again to Richland Springs, especially after Tipton’s reassignment.