Paso Robles High has a new head football coach

J.R. Reynolds

Paso Robles High School now has its third head football coach in a span of a little more than a year.

Unlike the last hire, Paso Robles High did not select top out-of-town talent. Rather, the school hired from within, removing J.R. Reynolds’ interim tag and promoting him to head coach of the Bearcat program.

Reynolds served as interim head coach for nearly the entire 2017 football season after Larry Grant, a former NFL linebacker, departed one game into his Paso Robles coaching tenure. Under Reynolds’ leadership, the Bearcats overcame a disastrous start to the season, finished 5-5 and won a PAC 5 league championship, going undefeated in league play.

The turnover at the helm of the Bearcat football program began when longtime Paso Robles High football coach and math teacher, Rich Schimke, lost his coaching job following a locker room incident last year in which he poured syrup on the belly of a 17-year-old player and licked or pretended to lick the syrup. The incident was caught on camera and spread through online media, igniting a feud in the community, which was split for and against Schimke.

School officials replaced Schimke with Grant, who ended up coaching only one game before parting ways with the school. Neither Grant nor the Paso Robles school district disclosed the reason for Grant’s sudden departure.

Some media speculated Grant’s quick exit was related to his godson and nephew transferring into Paso Robles High School under questionable circumstances in order to play football. One of the two players was ruled ineligible for the football season.

Following Grant’s departure, the controversy surrounding the school district’s handling of the program grew when Schimke spoke during public comment at a school board meeting. Schimke expressed sympathy for Grant and criticized Paso Robles Joint Unified School District, saying numerous district officials knew there would be eligibility issues involving Grant’s relatives, yet they remained silent about the issue for months.

Last week, the school board announced Reynolds would formally take over as head coach. A panel consisting of students, staff and community members selected Reynolds for the position, a school district press release states.

The former Bearcat lettered in both football and baseball and graduated from Paso Robles High in 2008. During his coaching career, Reynolds rose from serving as an assistant freshman coach to the top job at the Paso Robles program. Along the way, Reynolds led the junior varsity team to two undefeated seasons.

“I’ve been really impressed with Mr. Reynolds’ leadership and how he values a student-led program,” Superintendent Chris Williams said in a statement. “He is a genuine person and his passion for the success of students really stands out.”

Reynolds said he is extremely excited to be the head coach of a storied football program.

“The staff and I are looking forward to continue to teach our student athletes the importance of family, academics and community,” Reynolds said.

Next year, the Bearcats will move to the Central Section of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF).

“With our schedule set for the next season we are already looking forward to competing at a high level with goals of winning league, CIF and state championships,” Reynolds said.