Coach Tighe steps down

Dick Tighe was never quite sure when he would coach his last high school football game.

After a record-breaking career spanning over six decades of service, it appears that time has come.

Iowa’s all-time wins leader resigned from his post at St. Edmond on Monday, ending an unprecedented body of work that spanned 63 seasons and included a run to the state championship game just three years ago.

Tighe and the Gaels had their first losing campaign since 2003 this past year, going 2-7. Over the last 15 seasons, St. Edmond has compiled a record of 108-48 under his guidance, including 25 victories between 2013 and ’14 and the first two state semifinal appearances at the UNI-Dome in school history.

“My original plan was to continue coaching next year,” said Tighe, who has a state-best 432 victories. “But the school asked me to resign, and I have done that. You don’t get too many jobs at 86 years old, so this is effectively my retirement.

“I do appreciate (St. Edmond) allowing me to coach this late in my life. There are not many out there who would do that. I’ve really been thankful for that. I’m hopeful that when all is said and done, I made some kind of positive contribution to the program.”

Tighe did more than that, ending a 21-game losing streak his first game back with St. Edmond. His first coaching job in North America was with the Gaels back in 1961, when he went 4-4.

Tighe returned in 2002 and led the Gaels to three victories. They improved that number to four the following season before going 8-2 in 2004. A year later, St. Edmond went 11-1 and advanced to the state quarterfinals.

They would have nine winning campaigns over the next 10 years, including a 13-1 mark in 2013 and berth in the state finals against powerhouse Iowa City Regina. The Gaels went 12-1 the following year and advanced to the state semifinals as well.

“We ran a tight ship and a good program as far as discipline goes,” Tighe said. “We kept things clean and never asked for anything more than what we needed.

“We did things the right way.”

After spending five years at Carroll Kuemper, Tighe was hired by Webster City, where he spent the next 31 seasons and won 220 games. He still lives there with his second wife, Wyn.

Tighe spent four seasons as a co-head coach at Iowa Falls before replacing Jeff Anliker at St. Edmond in 2002.

“Coach Tighe revived the football program and made it into one of the best in the state over the last 15 years,” SEHS athletic director Joe Shanks said. “He is an icon in football, not just state-wise, but on a national level.

“He changed the attitude of the entire program.”

Tighe surpassed Bill Kibby for the most wins in school history with a victory over Manson Northwest Webster this past season, and finished with 112. He won double-digit games eight times overall, had two perfect 9-0 campaigns, and finished below .500 just six times.

By coaching 63 years, Tighe tied legendary John McKissick from South Carolina for most seasons on the high school sidelines as a head coach in the game’s history. McKissick, who retired in 2015, finished his career with an all-time best 621 wins. Tighe ranked sixth nationally in wins before this fall.

Tighe added he was “blessed” to work with his current group of assistants, as well as others from the community who have helped him out over the years.

“I really appreciated the staff I had,” he said. “They were great to work with, and we made quite a team. They are all really hard workers and dedicated to the game. They were also a reason I was able to continue as long as I did; they did the leg work for me.

“And of course, the kids. I couldn’t have done any of this without the kids. It takes a lot of dedication to play football. I was truly blessed with some great young men over the years at St. Edmond.”