Originally Published: November 4, 2011 10:33 p.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY - After guiding the Bradshaw Mountain High School football team to six straight postseason appearances in seven seasons, veteran Bears head coach Chuck Apap unexpectedly resigned Friday morning, citing lack of support from the school's principal.
Apap, a high school math teacher and varsity football coach of 41 years who had successful longtime stints as a head coach in Michigan from the late 1970s through 2004, compiled a 44-37 overall record at Bradshaw from 2005-11.
This fall, BMHS missed the state playoffs for the first time since 2004, in what was previous coach Mike McMahon's last of four seasons at the helm.
Bradshaw finished the 2011 campaign with a 6-4 overall record in the Arizona Interscholastic Association's newly formed Division II. A state title-winning coach in the 1990s, Apap earned the Daily Courier's All-Area Coach of the Year honors in 2009 and 2010.
"This year, it was a season of ups and downs," Apap said in an exclusive interview with the Courier Friday. "This year I may have done my best coaching."
On Friday, Apap turned in a resignation letter to third-year BMHS principal Dan Streeter and the school's athletic director, Cindy Dahl. Both of them denied comment on Apap's decision because it's a personnel matter.
They referred all media inquiries to Humboldt Unified School District public relations director Mariela Bean, who submitted a written statement from the district to the Courier Friday afternoon.
The complete statement read, "Today, the administration received a letter from Mr. Chuck Apap informing us of his resignation as Bradshaw Mountain High School Football Coach. Coach Apap carried out his responsibilities in this capacity for seven years; we are grateful for his years of service to the district and to our athletes."
The Bears qualified for the postseason in each of Apap's first six seasons, initially as a member of Class 4A, Division II and later as part of 4A-I, although BMHS never advanced past the state tournament's second round. However, Apap snapped a decade-long postseason drought for the Bears (1995-2004), bringing the program back from the doldrums.
Bradshaw had trouble capturing a postseason berth this season after third-year starting senior quarterback and 2010 All-State cornerback Tyler Audsley missed six games because of two separate freak injuries. BMHS compiled a 4-0 record in games Audsley played from Sept. 2-23, but it went just 2-4 without him.
Apap said Friday that he resigned because he felt he did not have Streeter's backing. Apap added that he was scheduled to meet with the principal on three different occasions this week to no avail.
A breakdown between Apap and the administration seems to have started after the Bears suffered their second straight blowout loss without Audsley in early October.
On Thursday, Oct. 6, Bradshaw succumbed 55-16 to Phoenix Sandra Day O'Connor on the road. That Friday, Apap said he decided to begin mentoring his younger assistant coaches during BMHS's final three games in preparation for them to take over the program.
In recent years, there were concerns whether Apap would continue coaching because of his health. A few years ago, Apap suffered a serious heart attack and did not coach for most of the season while he recovered from surgery.
Ron Fuson, Apap's seven-year lead assistant coach who filled in as head coach in 2008, said Apap worked hard since his heart attack to bring assistant coaches into the program who had ties to the school; increase booster club fundraising; improve the character and behavior of players on the team; and upgrade the off-season weightlifting program.
Fuson added that Apap planned to retire in another couple years, but he wanted to leave the program in good hands before he left.
"He gained a lot of respect for his successes. But over the past few years, he's felt like he could take on more and more," Fuson said. "And as you take on a load, then all of the sudden you bang your head against the wall on certain issues that you can't overcome. He's put so much into it that he really wanted to go another step or two."
Apap insists that he is in good health now and that his fitness was not a factor in his decision to resign.
"I mentioned to him (Streeter) at that time (in October after the O'Connor loss) that I was thinking about it (retiring)," said Apap, adding that he also told Dahl about his intentions. "He understood."
A separate incident happened following a 14-0 setback to Anthem Boulder Creek Oct. 21 at home when Apap said one of his assistant coaches scolded a team manager for misbehaving.
"I supported my coach, because I know what occurred," he said.
On Tuesday, Apap said he met informally with Streeter after school about that situation. Apap also apparently began hearing complaints from the school administration that he wasn't running a disciplined program.
"At that time he (Streeter) said he had feelings that there was rumblings out in the community," Apap said. "I said, 'Well, if there are rumblings, what are we talking about? If you don't feel that we're doing the job, let me know. If you don't feel you would like me as your coach, let me know.' "
Apap defended his disciplinary policy for athletes, saying he worked to correct players' behavior whenever an incident arose in the classroom or on the field by meeting with those players in person. Those who chose not to follow the rules were suspended immediately, he added.
Last season, Apap said he suspended seven players for violating his policy on underage drinking. After the season, he reinstated most of those athletes. He said because of his "zero tolerance" policy, no players were suspended this fall.
Apap said he had planned to meet with Streeter on Wednesday about his future as coach, but Streeter was busy. Apap told Streeter he was taking his coaches out to dinner that night and wanted to know what to tell them.
Apap added that Streeter said he would meet with him instead on Friday morning, which Apap agreed to do.
"I told him, 'I don't know if I'm getting your support or not,' " Apap said.
However, Apap said Friday's meeting was also postponed and rescheduled for next week. Apap added that he ultimately felt like if Streeter wanted him to remain as coach he would have found time this week to talk to him.
"I gave three days for them to respond to my concern that I needed to have 100 percent backing with my administration," Apap said. "Dan Streeter's a very good principal, and he knows what he's doing. If he doesn't feel that I'm the person, I accept that."
During his tenure as BMHS coach, Apap said he improved the academic standing of his student-athletes; significantly increased the number of athletes in the program; and instituted community service projects for players to perform.
Now that he has resigned, Apap said he will complete the inventory for Bradshaw's team uniforms and ensure that the rest of the equipment's in good shape for the next coach and the players.
He's also going to help his senior athletes with their highlight tapes and scholarship possibilities, similar to prior years.
The Bears will conduct their annual football banquet Nov. 13, but Apap said he does not want his retirement to be the focal point.
"It's going to be about 52 players and five managers being honored, as well as thanking the businesses that have supported us financially to allow us to get additional equipment and things like that for our players," Apap said. "It's also to thank our parents and booster club officers for all their hard work this past year."
Apap plans to continue teaching at Bradshaw, but without coaching he'll have more time to devote to his wife of 41 years, Carrie Ann, and their family.
"Right now, my plan is to retire from coaching, but I've learned never to say 'no' (to a possible return)," he said. "I don't care how many championships or playoff games I've won. The biggest thing I've done is touched kids' lives."