BUTTE — Sunday night MTN Sports confirmed that Montana Tech football head coach Chuck Morrell resigned from his position to take an assistant coaching job at Division I Fresno State University. That evening, Morrell met with his players to break the news.
“Shock. Because, like I said, when you lose the patriarch of the family it’s very difficult," said Montana Tech athletic director Matt Stepan.
“I think the biggest thing is that the kids knew it was a great opportunity for him, but at the same time we’re losing a tremendous head coach," said Kyle Samson, who was named the interim head coach on Monday. "We want to wish coach the best of luck.”
In his nine-year tenure with Montana Tech, Morrell has fostered relationships that have continually made the Orediggers one of the top NAIA schools on and off the football field. That makes his departure bittersweet for the entire Oredigger community.
“We’re going to miss him, no question about it. The leadership -- he brought our department through some really difficult days," added Stepan. "We owe a lot to coach Morrell and his family, and again we are just excited for this opportunity for him and excited for the future of Montana Tech football.”
Starting Monday that future will include an active head coaching search. Until the right candidate is found, Samson, Tech's second-year offensive coordinator, will be the interim head coach of the program, bearing a huge responsibility to build upon what Morrell started.
“I’m very excited for the opportunity to be the interim head coach for the next couple of weeks," Samson said. "And in that time I’m going to do my best to keep this thing going. We’ve got a great staff and a great group of guys that are working hard to keep everything going with the beginning of our semester and offseason workouts.”
With an opening to perhaps one of the most attractive coaching positions in the NAIA, Montana Tech’s administration is expecting some highly qualified candidates to apply.
“This is an incredible opportunity for any head coach. We talked about this with our players (Sunday), while names come and go the opportunity we have here, the academic opportunity our students have, the professional opportunity the coaches have, in my opinion, is top notch in the NAIA," said Stepan. "We’re expecting a robust pool of highly qualified coaches, and I’m really looking forward to working with the committee on finding the next head coach.”
With a collaborative effort and support from the coaches, the players, the administration and, above all, the Butte community, the Orediggers are looking ahead to a bright future.
“I think we’re in a great spot. We have a great administration, we have great people. To me, that’s what it’s all about. And I think there’s great support in the town of Butte," said Samson. "Like I said, I’m excited to move forward and continue to build on what coach Morrell has built here in the last nine years.”