After a year as an administrator, Scott Criner realized he belonged on the sidelines.
Criner stepped down as the Eagle High athletic director Thursday and will return to Rocky Mountain as an assistant football coach this fall. Criner previously led the Grizzlies as their head coach from 2013 to 2016 and built the program into one of the state’s best.
“I knew I wanted to be a football coach since I was in the third grade,” said Criner, 59. “That’s what I was designed to do, and I like doing it and I’m pretty good at it.”
Criner said after becoming an athletic director that he missed working with students and breaking down schematics day-in and day-out. So he’ll return to Rocky Mountain, where he’ll teach and become the offensive coordinator under his former defensive coordinator Chris Culig.
Culig took over the Grizzlies last season and will remain the Grizzlies’ head coach. He’ll continue to lead Rocky Mountain’s defense while Criner runs the offense, just as they did when Criner was there.
“The only difference was I gave the end of the practice speech and wrote the practice plan,” Criner said. “I’m more than happy to let him do both.”
Culig led Rocky Mountain to a 9-3 record and the 5A state semifinals in his first season. He said he’s excited to bring Criner’s offensive mind back to the sidelines.
“We both feel like we push each other from a schematic perspective,” said Culig, who coached with Criner at Eagle and Timberline. “We’re always pushing each other’s buttons and trying to figure out how we can get better.”
Criner led the Grizzlies to a 38-9 record in four seasons as the head coach, including the 2015 state title, and owns a career record of 55-21. He has coached at the college level, serving as the offensive coordinator at Sacramento State and working at Boise State, Navy, Cincinnati and Pacific. He coached receivers for the Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL in 2001.
Criner said his departure had nothing to do with Eagle, but was just a realization of who he is and what he excels at. Culig said he offered to let Criner take back the program as head coach, but Criner declined.
“I’m just another spoke in the wheel now,” Criner said. “I’m OK with that, and it’s awesome. The bottom line is I get to go back to doing what I like.”