Mike Gehrer's athletic performance training business kept him close to football, but not close enough.
"Mike does a lot of individual instruction," Collegiate athletic director Mitch Fiegel said, "but I think the coaching bug has been biting him pretty hard."
So when Collegiate's football job came open, Gehrer did some soul searching and determined he'd like his old job back. The program he built from 1990 to 2004 is his again, named Thursday as the coach to replace the coach who replaced him, Bill Messamore.
"The thing I've been missing is developing team and community," Gehrer said. "I always missed building the team spirit and all that camaraderie."
Gehrer, 56, was 126-32 in his first stint as coach, leading the Spartans to Class 3A crowns in 1994 and 2000. He coached six Eagle Top 11 selections, including three-time pick DeAngelo Evans.
Leaving the school in 2005 to begin his athletic training business didn't end Gehrer's ties to Collegiate. He joined Messamore's staff as an assistant for two years beginning in 2009.
After Messamore resigned in the fall with a 63-15 record and the 2009 3A championship, one of Fiegel's first calls was to Gehrer, who at first declined. But he called back while Fiegel was on a hunting trip.
"I had a feeling I knew what it was about," Fiegel said.
Gehrer got on the phone with others, too. Long-time defensive coordinator Troy Black will remain, as will innovative offensive coordinator Phil Keys, a former Friends coach.
Even Messamore re-upped and will be receivers and special teams coach.
Unlike 1990, after being an assistant for a year when Collegiate hired him as football coach and athletic director, Gehrer doesn't have to build — just maintain and keep improving.
There are challenges. Collegiate begins Class 4A football next fall after decades as a 3A school. Gehrer said he expects the Spartans to be in 4A a long time with an attendance number far below some other 4A teams.
"To me, that's a pretty big challenge," Gehrer said. "One that's going to be real for the school. We've got to find a way to compete."