Nudera's departure addition by subtraction for OPRF

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John McDermott

On Tuesday, Nov. 2, Jim Nudera resigned from his position as head varsity football coach at Oak Park and River Forest High School after 12 abysmal seasons [Nudera says goodbye to OPRF's gridiron, Sports, Nov. 10]. Nudera's resignation is significant not only in that it marks the end of a truly embarrassing stretch for the OPRF football program. The fact that he had to resign instead of being fired in order for his position to become vacant illustrates that he was able to do what the OPRF athletic department would not: remove a coach who was simply bad at his job.

In the 12 seasons Nudera coached at OPRF, the Huskies went a combined 41-70 for a .369 winning percentage. The Huskies had a losing record in nine of those seasons, with only one winning season in 2006 when the team went 6-4. The three years the Huskies qualified for the playoffs (2005, '06 and '09), they lost in the first round. The combined score of Nudera's three playoff appearances were opponents 120, Huskies 35. Nudera apologists can try to justify the man's tenure at OPRF, but the numbers speak for themselves. He was a bad coach and he should have been fired for it years ago.

Undoubtedly, people in the Oak Park and River Forest communities are reading this and thinking to themselves that it is unfair to judge a high school coach strictly based on winning. And I agree. A football coach's job is to oversee the physical, mental and social development of the young boys in his program, thus ushering them into young adulthood. But Nudera did none of those things. He failed as a motivator and leader of men. Perhaps Nudera's most startling deficiency was his inability to get the boys at OPRF interested and committed to football. Opposing teams always dwarfed OPRF in total number of players, and much of this was due to Nudera's lack of personal connection to the athletes he was being paid to coach.

When I began playing football at the high school as a freshman in 2002, a staggering number of freshmen, more than 90, came out to play football. By my senior year, that number had dwindled into the 20s. Numerous student-athletes at the school, many of whom had the potential to grow into incredible football players, left the program because they simply could not stand Nudera's terse, unwelcoming approach to the sport. Rather than help these impressionable youngsters, Nudera was content to have them leave if they showed even the slightest lack of commitment. With all this said, I do not hold Nudera's shortcomings against him. I respected his dedication, and he certainly worked his hardest to forge a successful football program. He was passionate about coaching football. Problem was, he was never good at it.

My biggest complaint is that the school and athletic department never made an attempt to replace him. By allowing a coach to keep his job despite continually underperforming, the athletic department (whether it was intentional or not) embraced mediocrity. For some reason, losing has become acceptable at OPRF, which is a dangerous atmosphere for more than just athletics. Failure happens, but we should never accept it. The great thing about sports is that it teaches you to strive endlessly for success in all facets of life, regardless of the challenges. Goal setting, discipline and work ethic are emphasized in high school sports not just because they help people achieve on the field, but because they can be transferred to whatever endeavor one may tackle in life. Winning is not important in and of itself; striving to do so no matter what the outcome is important, however.

I hope that athletic director John Stelzer considers this when deciding upon a new head football coach. It would be a shame for them to hire another inept leader who will once again fail to inspire his players to do their best as athletes, students and citizens. Needless to say, one coach can change everything. For proof of that we need only look at what happened at the school Nudera coached at prior to OPRF.

From 1995 to 1998, Nudera was the head coach at Prospect High School in Mt. Prospect. Over the course of four seasons, he accumulated a record of 8-28, including a winless 0-9 season in 1996. Brent Pearlman took over the head coaching job in 1999. That year Pearlman went 4-5. The next year he went 6-4 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. The next two years, Prospect won back-to-back state championships.

It's time for a comeback.

John McDermott graduated from the University of Illinois with a journalism degree this past May. In 2006 he graduated from OPRF, where he was a captain on the football team all four years. Jim Nudera and John Stelzer were given an opportunity to respond to this letter but declined.

Reader Comments

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Melvin Tate from Oak Park   

Posted: October 27th, 2015 12:29 PM

I've never met Jim Nudera but by all accounts he seems like a good guy who cared about his players. But a change was necessary; his won-loss record simply wasn't productive enough. In fact, I would say his style of football had gotten bland, predictable, stale, and uninspiring. OPRF football needed a fresh approach, and it looks like John Seltzer picked the right man in John Hoerster. I always felt OPRF was a sleeping giant in football, it needed the right coach to awaken it. Clearly, Hoerster is that coach; he's very inspirational and has fun. In my opinion, there is no way we'd be experiencing the Huskies' current success if Jim Nudera was still the coach.

Brandon Worix from Bellwood   

Posted: October 23rd, 2015 11:47 PM

Personally I think Coach Nudera is a great human being.... He came oprf when I was a freshman there .... Throughout my High school Career he treated me like a son.... He even helped me get into college .... I have nothing bad to say.... He may not of had a winning career at oprf but he impacted me and I'm sure others..... Is that what matters molding young boys into responsible men... The thre I's intensity,integrity and intelligence

Mark from Shorewood  

Posted: October 30th, 2012 5:21 PM

Funny cause he still has his ring from the Michigan State Aloha bowl

Minnesota_Nudera Fan  

Posted: October 10th, 2011 2:05 PM

Moral Compass said it best! I echo his comments! On a more humorous note, I think the post by Q McCoy was one of the funniest posts I've read in my life. Sometimes ya have to laugh at yourself when you go 0-9.

Minnesota_Nudera Fan  

Posted: October 10th, 2011 1:59 PM

I worked for Jim Nudera at Prospect and it was very rewarding and educational. This "editorial" is a personal attack on a given person. He fails to mention that Brent Pearlman was Nudera's d cordinator and assc. head coach and that the districts realigned at both the middle school and high school in district 214. Nudera is a great influence on young people and I'm sorry that you have a personal grudge. Bottem line, high school sports are NOT about winning. Development, fun and maturing they ar

Daniel Hurtado, out of touch   

Posted: December 11th, 2010 11:22 PM

$110,000 is not a lot for a middle aged professional? With all do respect Daniel, but WHAT PLANET DO YOU LIVE ON? The average income in this country is $43,000 a year. This man was netting quite an income while producing lack luster results. In any other "PROFESSIONAL" environment, such a lack of success would of had the man fired ages ago. Also, just an FYI, you don't have to be a politician to be legally criticized in a public forum, rather, the law states, a public figure.

Get off your high horses from Champaign, IL  

Posted: December 11th, 2010 11:08 PM

This is an editorial and the author was not slanderous in what he wrote. In what other profession can you have a success rate of .369 percent and keep your job for that long? It's a wonder that Nudera was hired at all based on his accomplishments at Prospect High School. At some point, being a good guy is not a good enough reason to keep your job. I'm sure Nudera is less-than-thrilled with the way his tenure went at OPRF. His resume speaks for itself.

Hold a grudge is an ignorant dunce.   

Posted: December 11th, 2010 10:58 PM

You attack a kid for hiding behind a computer screen and stating an opinion. However, at the same time, you do the same thing (with a lot less class) and don't even have the balls to tie a name to your anonymous opinion. This kid took the time to submit an opinion to an editorial. That is what editorials are for. OPINIONS. You have the right not to agree, but not to attack a kid for utilizing the proper means to voice an opinion. Congratulations GRUDGE, you have made an ass of yourself.

Dear "Hold a grudge??"  

Posted: December 11th, 2010 10:49 PM

Its easy to hide behind the anonymous comment box of a web page and rip a kid a part. You piece of scum coward. Your hypocrisy is probably a reflection of your ignorance. Here is a young kid, who put his name to an opinion, and had it published in the editorial section of a newspaper.THATS WHAT EDITORIALS ARE FOR. Just as much as you have the right to your opinion, he has the right to his. The difference is he had the courage to place a name to his thoughts, and write a well thought out article.

Hold a grudge???  

Posted: November 26th, 2010 9:26 PM

It's easy to hide behind a computer and bash a former coach of yours for running a program that you couldn't hack. Football takes the highest level of commitment, one that you don't understand. Look at W.Warrenville South, Maine South, GB West and Mt. Carmel. Why wouldn't these teams have good teams they get study hall periods to watch film and lift weights. The kids there sacrifice their entire lives just to play football, nothing of which the players were asked or allowed to do at OPRF.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: November 23rd, 2010 10:47 PM

So what exactly are we saying? That it's OK to try to publicly humiliate a high school football coach because he does not have a winning record? That he DESERVES to be publicly humiliated? Perhaps that is true of college and professional coaches, whose salaries are in the millions, but a high school coach? Why? What good does it accomplish?

Help Sense  

Posted: November 23rd, 2010 9:53 PM

Sometimes - the truth hurts. Yes, talking in person is the best. Maybe, just maybe that was done. Coaches many times will never listen to kids until it is too late. Games are played for more than won lost record. If the coach is connecting and the kids believe, the wins will come. In this case they did not.


Posted: November 23rd, 2010 11:45 AM

$110,000 to teach PE and Driver's Ed? Are you kidding? No wonder taxes are so high around here.

Q. McCoy from Mt. Prospect  

Posted: November 23rd, 2010 9:49 AM

I love the guy. He fed me the ball continuously until I reached the 1,000 yard mark after my 457th carry of the season. I was part of that 0-9 1996 squad that the article referenced.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: November 19th, 2010 6:52 AM

Actually, $110,000 is not a great deal of money for a middle-aged professional. Nor does it sound like a lot of money for teaching driver's ed, teaching PE, and coaching a football team. Whether a high-school sports team wins or loses has nothing to do with the quality of the school as an educational institution. A high-school teacher, though paid by public funds, is not the same as a politician, and your public attack on him seems uncalled for, and smacks of you having a personal ax to grind.

John McDermott  

Posted: November 18th, 2010 5:09 PM

I think any critics of my article should know that Nudera's salary was more than $116,000. So essentially, he was paid six figures to teach driver's ed, PE and lose football games.Anytime a person's salary is publicly funded, they are automatically open to criticism by the citizens whose taxes help their paychecks. And when their salaries don't reflect their job performance, even more criticism is warranted.

Graham Smith from Oak Park  

Posted: November 18th, 2010 1:00 PM

It%u2019s refreshing to read a strong critique in this journal. Unfortunately so much of what we read in the local and national press is little more than tepid spam, devoid of real connection to the issue and therefore without context or authority. A former player who is connected to a program who lived through its very decline %u2013 in fact is in a great position to comment. Mr %u2018Moral Compass%u2019 should recalibrate, what hypocrisy! An anonymous post calling someone to a higher standard, really?

OP Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: November 18th, 2010 12:29 PM

Inspiring a young person to do their best as an athlete, student and citizen is a responsibility shared by parents, family, friends, teachers, clergy and coaches. There are positive role models throughout our community. I think Coach Nudera served the students at OP-RF in a decent and honorable manner. That's what is really important.

Moral Compass  

Posted: November 18th, 2010 11:36 AM

Some day may understand why it was wrong to write this letter in an open public forum. You are an embarassment to your school and family. A real man would have sat down with his former coach and expressed his views. Perhaps one day you will become a man.

Joseph Bostovich from River Forest  

Posted: November 17th, 2010 11:30 AM

Thanks John,You're an idiot and opinions like yours are the reason competitive sports should not be played at high schools. Do you really believe the crap you wrote about building character? What a joke. How did you accomplish that growth under Nudera if he is so incompetent.

Chris Donovan  

Posted: November 17th, 2010 9:59 AM

Nothing like kicking a guy when he's down; even if you are trying to polish your journalism credibility by getting published your comments weren't necessary.

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