Butler Community College football coach Troy Morrell resigned on Tuesday after leading the Grizzlies to three NJCAA titles and 12 Jayhawk Conference championships over 15 seasons.
Longtime associate head coach Steve Braet will serve as interim coach until a successor is named.
“I just needed change,” Morrell said. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years now, putting in 50-90 hours every week and I feel like I need to do this for myself and for my family. I’m going to miss the coaching part of it, the competition part of it, but this is the best thing for us.”
Morrell, 43, said he was going into private business – nothing associated with football – and would be moving his family to Hutchinson and enrolling his two children, Dylan and Madelyn, in the Buhler school district. Both Morrell and his wife, Jessica, are from Buhler and Morrell indicated he would like to help coach Dylan, who plays football.
“I became the Butler coach in 2000, when Dylan was born basically five months after that, so I’ve missed a lot of things,” Morrell said. “I missed a lot of the kids’ activities and that weighed on me a bit.”
Morrell said he informed the school of his decision last week and tried to inform as many of his returning players as he could via phone calls leading up to Tuesday morning.
Morrell has the highest winning percentage of any coach in NJCAA history, going 154-22. He also played for Butler in 1989 and 1990 and won two NJCAA titles as an assistant coach at Butler in 1998 and 1999.
The school announced Morrell’s resignation on its website.
Morrell and Buhler High football coach Steve Warner are longtime friends.
“It’s an amazing resource to have in our community,” Warner said. “We talked last week and I’m excited to have his son and his daughter in our school district. He and his family are good people.”
Warner wouldn’t comment on whether they’d discussed Morrell becoming an assistant coach, only saying assistant coach hires were something that had to be approved by the district.
The reaction from former players and fans on Twitter was one of disbelief.
“It’s very humbling, and it’s the result of a lot more than just me,” Morrell said. “(The reaction) makes me appreciate all the great players I was able to coach and all the great people I worked with ... this place is bigger than me. I was fortunate to be surrounded by so many amazing people.”
Butler played for the NJCAA title twice in the past four years, losing to Navarro in 2010 and Iowa Western in 2012. The Grizzlies went 8-3 this year, losing to Hutchinson and Coffeyville both for the first time in almost two decades.
Morrell has been an outspoken opponent of the Jayhawk Conference’s major shift in rules over the past few seasons. Three seasons ago, the Jayhawk Conference approved a rule that let coaches switch out their 12 allotted out-of-state players at different points in the season, then two seasons ago approved a rule that bumped the number of out-of-state players from 12 to 20.
Butler opposed both moves and Morrell was vocal about his displeasure with the changes. He said the rule changes factored into his decision.
“It had a little bit to do with it,” Morrell said. “We were basically changing to an out-of-state conference, and that has really not been a good deal for me. I didn’t believe in it and we didn’t vote for it ... I feel like we’re a Kansas conference and we owe it to the people in the state to give opportunities to the kids here first.
“Over time, things changed. The locker room changed. I struggled with it ... it wasn’t the sense of team and family that it used to be. Those 20 out-of-state kids, that move was taking Kansas kids off the field. It was a small piece of my decision, but it always kind of bothered me.”
Braet would not comment and Butler athletic director Todd Carter was traveling and not available for comment. Butler opened a new stadium, 4,000-seat BG Products Veterans Sports Complex, in 2012.
“Troy has had an incredible impact on Butler football and Butler athletics as a whole,” athletic director Todd Carter said in the school’s news release. “We are so grateful to have had Troy lead our program to so much success over the past 15 years – a run of success unprecedented nationally and in the history of the Jayhawk Conference. Troy will always be a part of the Butler family. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
The school said it was moving forward quickly with the search for Morrell’s replacement — most on-campus visits from recruits to junior colleges occur in January.
“We will have a new coach identified as soon as we possibly can,” said Butler Vice President of Student Services Bill Rinkenbaugh. “We expect to find someone who can carry on the storied and unmatched tradition of Butler football.”