Ben Downey tells me he is stepping down as head football coach at St. Joseph High School in South Bend after six seasons.
Downey says he's "choked up" over the decision but says he wants to spend more time with his family.
"A head coach makes a promise to a program that no matter what he's going to do what's best for the program and I definitely did what was best for the program but as a result I ended up missing some important events with my kids," Downey explained. "Every adult I talk to--every single one--looks at me and says, 'enjoy them while they are young' and they smile and walk away. I just want to make sure I don't miss this special window of time with my kids."
Downey and his wife Lindsey have three children: Dallas, Dawson and Avery. Dallas is the oldest. He's eight. Downey says he hopes to return to coaching when his kids are older.
"It's tough because I honestly believe I'm meant to coach--it's what I'm passionate for--to coach football," Downey explains. "To make it more difficult, is the fact that it's St. Joe a place that since 5th grade I've been paying attention to and holding close to my heart."
Downey was 52-26 in his time as head coach of his alma mater. He led the Indians to the state finals in each of his first two seasons, but his greatest coaching may have come this past year. The Indians entered the post-season with a 4-5 record but made it all the way to Semi-State before losing 41-7 to Bishop Dwenger. He told his players Friday afternoon of his decision and that was the hardest part.
"I literally wrote a few things on the board and turned around, saw them and was already crying," Downey explains. "It was extremely emotional. It was the toughest thing I've ever done."
"We've developed special relationships with the players and then we've gotten the younger brothers and are close with the parents so it's a good family atmosphere and you just get really connected with people," Downey continues. " The fact that all that's happened and the fact it's at St. Joe in particular makes it a really tough decision and easily the toughest decision I've ever made."
Downey took over the St. Joe program for his brother Kevin. The two combined for more than 100 wins in 13 total years at the helm of the Indians program. Next season will mark the first time since 2002 St. Joe has had a head coach not named Downey.