By JAIME HERNANDEZ
Pima Community College head football coach Pat Nugent turned in his letter of resignation on Nov. 15.
His resignation came just two weeks after a 38-22 win over powerhouse Arizona Western College on Nov. 2. The win improved Pima’s record to 5-5, which represented the most season wins the Aztecs had under Nugent and the most wins under any coach since 2003.
“I’m glad we went out with a bang,” Nugent said. “I told the Western coach the other day, I’m leaving just because I know I may never beat Western again.”
In reality, Nugent said, five years of coaching at the community college level wore him down.
“This is a year-round job,” he said. “With junior college kids, there’s a lot of social stuff that you have to deal with. A junior college kid doesn’t have the greatest life. There are a lot of issues you have to deal with, from academics to financial issues.”
Raymond Suarez, Pima’s director of sports information, said he was shocked when he heard the news. He didn’t think Nugent would walk away after such a good season.
Suarez said he respects and appreciates everything Nugent did for the Aztecs. Assistant coaches and players also expressed gratitude.
“Nugent has put this program on the map,” defensive backs coach Carter Jones said. “He was worked tirelessly to do right by the players, and staff. I am great full for the opportunity he has given me.”
Freshman quarterback Jack Nykaza said the news will require adjustment.
“Coach resigning is very hard on the guys,” Nykaza said. “I appreciate his leadership and him as a person.”
Sophomore receiver Cassius Pierce was shocked to hear the news.
“It was surprising to me, especially after having a winning season,” he said. “As a sophomore, we wanted to get Pima back on the map for coach, and we did that.”
The task of finding a new head football coach falls to Athletic Director Edgar Soto. He said that filling Nugent’s shoes won’t be easy, but he would like to have an interim coach hired within a few weeks.
“We are looking to find the best coach possible, whether it be from within or from the outside,” Soto said. “We have coaches on staff who I know are well qualified, but I also know there are coaches outside this program who are well qualified.”
Several coaches from the Tucson area, and some from Nugent’s staff, have expressed interest.
Nugent has endorsed two coaches, defensive coordinator Pat Ryden and defensive lines coach Jim Monaco. Both coaches have been a part of Nugent’s staff for several years and Nugent expressed complete confidence in their abilities to lead the football program.
Despite some calls to disband the football program, Soto said it will remain intact.
“I don’t think at this point it’s going to happen,” Soto said. “The way we look at the value of a program here at Pima is the educational value of what the program brings.”
He said football has given more than 100 students an opportunity to get an education and transfer to four-year universities.