It’s the end of an era in Cottonwood.
West Valley head football coach Greg Grandell on Saturday told Shasta County Sports he turned in his resignation, wrapping up a 27-year run at the helm of the Eagles that saw three Northern Section CIF championships and nine league titles, but ended amid allegations of hazing inside the program.
Grandell said Saturday his immediate varsity staff who received coaching stipends all followed the coach in announcing their resignations as well.
The departure leaves the Eagles’ coach third on the Northern Section’s all-time coaching wins list. Grandell ends with 195 wins, 19 behind Anderson’s Bob Reid and three behind East Nicolaus’ Geoff Wahl.
“I loved what I’ve done, loved the program we built, loved the experience of being a coach and will always cherish it,” said Grandell, who had been thinking about retiring for the past five years. “It’s time for me to go now. … I need to separate myself from the investigation and be a good soldier that way … it’s time for (West Valley) to transition to a new person.”
The announcement caps a tumultuous week in which the coaches said they were put on administrative leave by the Anderson Union High School District two days after an unusual board meeting in which the trustees met in closed session, reported no action on a “public employee” matter, but allowed the public to speak on the matter in an open-session comment period.
Emotions ran hot on both sides, as supporters of Grandell and the coaching staff spoke of their character while family members of the alleged victims spoke of a staff, school and community that abandoned and ostracized them.
The hazing allegations, which range from unsupervised boxing matches to assault with a “birthday stick,” are being investigated by the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office and a district-hired private investigator. Additionally, the four alleged victims have retained counsel with a Redding law firm.
Grandell and his staff claim they were not present for the alleged incidents.
“I’m really broken-hearted with the situation. I hope we can get to the truth and people can start to mend from it,” Grandell said. “I’m sad for every parent, every player on every side.”
With football practice set to start Dec. 14, who will take over the program remains up in the air. The CIF announced Monday that California’s Department of Public Health postponed the release of updated youth sports guidelines due to the high rate of positive COVID-19 tests throughout the state, which prompted Governor Gavin Newsom to put 41 of the state’s 58 counties in the most restrictive “purple/widespread” tier.
Grandell’s coaching tenure at West Valley spanned two generations and he recalled having the pleasure of coaching the sons of his former players — most notably 2018 Shasta County Sports Heisman Cade Lambert, son of Dirk — at The Pasture on Friday nights.
“It’s been one of my greatest joys to see those guys become men and excited to have their boys in the program,” Grandell said.
Off-campus assistant Jim Vert, who has coached at West Valley since 1989, said he was not forced to resign and he wants the truth of the allegations to surface and justice to be had. Vert compared stepping down to losing part of his identity.
“Coaching at West Valley was a huge part of who we are,” Vert said. “It’s heartbreaking to devote that much time to something and it’s gone.”
Grandell’s teams struggled early with him as a head coach, starting his tenure with six straight losing seasons while making the playoffs once. But he guided the Eagles to winning seasons in 19 of the next 21 years with 18 playoff appearances in that span. In all, Grandell’s record is 195-116, aided by seven seasons with double-digit wins, including the past two. He finishes 88-44 in league contests with 16 straight Northern Athletic League wins that have led to three straight NAL titles and seven league championships overall. The Eagles finished the regular season undefeated at 10-0 for the first time in his 27 years in 2019.
He navigated hardships along the way with the loss of three players, all to car accidents — Robby Garnaro and Jesse Brown along with the latest with the passing of Tyson Wacker in 2018. The coaching staff’s leadership during the Wacker tragedy filtered through the Eagle captains and program to galvanize the team to win a Northern Section Division III title and reach the CIF NorCal D5-AA Bowl Game, fulling what’s known as “The Promise” to the late teammate.
Aside of the accomplishments and record-chasing, Grandell steps away reminiscing about the connections he’s made throughout the years.
“The camaraderie with the coaches and obviously the relationships with the players and helping them grow up to be good men,” Grandell said. “I’m just one part of it. There’s parents, teachers, ministers, everything else. I tried to do the best I could to make the best men that I could.”
Despite stepping down, Grandell’s not closing the door on coaching in the future. But it’s something he’ll have to discuss with his family, who has been supportive of his “labor of love” in the profession.
“I’m never going to say never,” Grandell said.
BY THE NUMBERS
West Valley under Grandell’s tenure
|Overall Record||195-116 (62.7%)|
|League Record||88-44 (66.7%)|
|Playoff Record||25-17 (59.5%)|
|Playoff appearances||19 (70.3%)|
|NSCIF Titles||3 (2004, 2013, 2018)|
9 (04, 07, 10-11, 13-14, 17-19)
|Defensive shutouts||40 (6 in 2018)|
|Avg Pts For/Game||27.8|
|Avg. Pts Against/Game||18.5|
|Wins||12 (2013, 2018)|
|Points Against||81 (2004)|
|Points Against/Game||6.8 (2004)|
Greg Grandell season-by-season
|Year||Overall W-L||League W-L||Playoff W-L||Accomplishments|
|2004||11-1||5-0||2-0||League, Section Title|
|2013||12-1||5-0||3-0||League, Section Title|
|2018||12-2||5-0||3-1||League, Section Title|
|TOTAL||195-116 (62.67%)||88-44 (66.7%)||25-17 (59.5%)|