By DAVE HANNEMAN
NORTH BALTIMORE — The area will be without one of its more colorful and outspoken coaches next fall with the announcement that Dino Woodruff would not be returning as North Baltimore’s head football coach.
Efforts to reach North Baltimore Athletics Director Bradlee Rowlinson for confirmation were unsuccessful on Tuesday night. When asked if he was non-renewed, dismissed or simply resigned, though, Woodruff was as straight-forward and candid as always.
“I’d say all of the above,” Woodruff said.
“I had an evaluation two, three weeks ago. I told them I wasn’t coming back, but I don’t think they were going to bring me back, either.”
Woodruff spent 23 seasons as an assistant or head coach in the Tigers’ football program. In two stints as head coach, the first from 2003-2005, he compiled a 19-31 overall record. While complete year-by-year records were unavailable, those 19 wins are possibly the most by any coach in school history.
Woodruff guided North Baltimore to its last winning (6-4 in 2005) and break-even (5-5 in 2004) seasons. The program has struggled, however, finishing 2-8 last season and going 14-56 since its last winning season in 2005.
“It was a pretty frustrating year, and it started weighing on my personal life,” Woodruff said.
“My grandson came to me one time and asked me why I was so quiet and why I didn’t smile as much anymore.
“Maybe it was just time (to step down).”
While football remains the marquee fall sport at high schools across the country, more and more districts have seen participation numbers fall, programs struggle and attitudes and emphasis change.
“Kids have changed so much. I’m sure it’s everywhere, but especially at North Baltimore,” Woodruff said.
“Me, I’m kind of an old-school, let’s-get-after-it kind of coach. Kids don’t seem to react to that any more.
“We had attendance problems, and when you have 22 kids on the team, it’s tough to start booting kids off. One day I had 11 kids there. We had three quarterbacks on the team; one practice none of them showed up.
“They (the players) knew they had us.
“I’m not going to blame just the kids. Maybe my way of coaching just doesn’t get it out of the kids these days.”
From his perspective, Woodruff saw the biggest drawback as a commitment to the weight room.
“Last year, I was up in the weight room Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, on my own time for free, and sometimes we’d have one kid in there,” Wodruff said.
“We were not strong, and that killed us (in football). Other teams were so much stronger than us.”
“Face it, we are not very good at anything right now. North Baltimore has always been pretty decent in baseball, but in track, in cross country, in basketball, in wrestling, except for Dalton (Ishmael), we’re not doing well.
“I think the weight program here is the biggest issue. It’s not good. We have athletes with some talent, but without strength we’re going nowhere.”
Woodruff also feels a commitment to North Baltimore athletics goes beyond the football field, the basketball court and the ball diamond.
“The biggest thing at North Baltimore is the parents need to start supporting better. Parents can tear down a program in about 10 minutes,” Woodruff said.
“Letting the kids and the parents dictate how we coach around here doesn’t work. The kids just don’t seem to want to work hard. The parents have to get behind them and be accountable and take responsibility or we are going nowhere.
“The kids around here, you try to pamper them, treat them nice and they take advantage of it. That’s not my coaching style. I’d rather be my old hard-nosed self.”
Woodruff was candidly reflective about his years on the North Baltimore sidelines.
“It’s been real and it’s been fun, but it’s not always been real fun,” Woodruff said.
“I love North Baltimore. I wish them the best. There are no hard feelings.
“Maybe North Baltimore was not a good fit for me. I’d still like to coach, just not as a head coach. The most fun I had coaching was when I was an assistant. I was always a players coach and kids seem to loosen up to you more when you’re an assistant and not the head coach.
“Somebody told me assistant coaches don’t get any of the credit when you win. I said, yeah, but they don’t get all the b— s— when you lose, either.”
By DAVE HANNEMAN