Ted Richards made good out of really bad

On the first day of political economics class at the University of Montana, the professor said that there was nothing that could happen to the economy that was bad for everybody.

When the stock market crashes, inevitably there will be people who benefit. In fact, some of the great fortunes in America were made in the Great Depression.

I was thinking that this guy clearly didn’t know what it was like to see his dad come home from work from work with a pink slip a couple of days before Christmas. Like many who grew up in Butte during the Reagan years, I knew that feeling.

How in the world could it be good for anybody when the mines in Butte closed down and sent hundreds of people, like my dad, to the unemployment line?

How could sending dads driving all around the country looking for work possibly be beneficial to anybody?

Of course, I knew what the professor was saying. I just didn’t like the cavalier way he was saying it. Never could I see good coming out of those dark, dark days.

Then, a couple of years after that class, in early June of 1997, I met Centerville football coach Ted Richards at a practice for the Treasure State Class C All-Star football game in Butte.

Richards worked in the mines in Butte, and he was prepared to spend his life like countless Butte guys have done before him.

When the mines started closing down, however, Richards saw it as the kick in the butt he needed to go to college and get his degree in education. That led him to a teaching and, eventually, a coaching job in Centerville, a small town outside of Great Falls.

His team, fittingly enough, was called the Miners.

In Centerville, Richards made an impact on the lives of hundreds of young men. He also guided the team to its only state championships. The Miners won the Class C 8-man title in 1999 and again 2006, when Richards got to coach his grandson.

Richards’ Miners might have won a third title a few years later. Richards, though, suspended five players during the playoffs because he said they “violated a team rule.”

Four of those players were All-State selections, and the Miners ended the season at 10-1 after a semifinal loss at Drummond.

“I would have liked to have played them with all of my guys,” Richards said after the game.

One of those players, by the way, went on to take the Frontier Conference by storm early this past season. Nobody was more proud than the high school coach who knew integrity was more important than winning.

Because of that integrity — and a whole lot of wins — Richards, who was selected as Coach of the Year in 1999, was inducted into the Montana Coaches Hall of Fame in 2011.

Richards is even more decorated as a teacher in Centerville, where he teaches math and history.

“I’m a lot better teacher than I am a football coach,” Richards told Pat Ryan back in 2011. “Teaching is what I came up here for. The coaching is secondary. Actually, I didn’t come up to coach. They had asked me to do it, and I just stayed.”

Richards is a two-time Defune Award winner, given to the teacher of the year. He was a finalist for the Montana History Teacher of the Year honor in 2000.

The impact Richards has had on the lives of generations of Centerville students, though, is impossible to measure with awards. That can probably be determined my by the former players who continually insist that Richards can’t retire until their sons are done playing football.

Despite those continued objections from former players who have sons who play or will play for the Centerville Miners, Richards announced his retirement on Christmas Day. Surprisingly, Richards made his announcement on Twitter.

He simply stated the following: “Retired after 33 years of coaching football at Centerville.”

The 2013 season was Richards’ last on the Centerville sideline, and like most of the other 32 years it ended in the playoffs.

It will probably also end with yet another invitation to come to Butte and coach at the Class C All-Star game, which has since been named after longtime Ennis coach Bob Cleverley. At least we can hope it does because the party won’t be the same without him.

Now, I have to say that it was really hard to see my dad get laid off just before Christmas that year. But it might even harder to imagine what the Montana football scene would have been like if Richards would have stayed a Butte miner instead of becoming a Centerville Miner.

Coach Richards is proof that the professor really did know what he was talking about.

—Bill Foley, who still disagrees with the rest of his professors, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 3 comments

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  • Ted Richards
    December 31, 2013, 6:34 pm

    Thank You

  • Tim Guisti
    January 1, 2014, 12:49 am

    As a former player (and after graduating from CVILLE) friend of Teddy’s, I would like to thank and congratulate him on his years of dedication to the Centerville School! I was a Freshman when Ted arrived and had the pleasure of learning the game of football with and from Ted. The first years are the defining moment of a persons career and he held steadfast over the years to find that Championship!
    Once again thank you for all you have given to the community of “The Gulch”!

    • Bob Van Vleet@Tim Guisti
      January 8, 2014, 11:40 am

      I am very proud to say it was I who nominated Ted to the MCA Hall of Fame.When I asked former Mt Coaches Association Chairman,the late Ralph Halverson,to get me the paperwork to get Ted in first thing he asked was WHAT TOOK SOMEONE SO LONG TO NOMINATE TED.!!


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