When Bob Norvell took the job to lead the Sehome football team in 2012, he told Mariners athletic director Colin Cushman if he didn’t get the program turned around in the first four years, it was time to start looking for a new coach.
“That might have been a little lofty of me,” Norvell said. “But I’ve seen programs turn around, and I really thought we were on the right track. … I figured if all went well, I’d stay there forever, but if we couldn’t make things happen …”
But after five years, including a difficult 2016 campaign, Norvell reached that point. Cushman announced the coach’s resignation in an email Thursday.
“Bob worked extremely hard to create a positive, competitive environment where the emphasis was on building character and developing fine young men,” Cushman wrote in the email. “Many of coach Norvell’s players have continued on and are playing at the college level. Bob is a man of high integrity and character who always put the needs of our kids first.”
Norvell replaced Darren Tinnerstet in 2012 and guided the team to a 14-37 record during his tenure.
Sehome has not finished with a winning record since going 6-4 in 2004, but Norvell led the team to its most successful season since 1999 in his second year at the helm. The Mariners went 4-5 during the 2013 regular season and then beat Lakewood 35-13 in the Class 2A Northwest District playoffs to earn a trip to state – a run that ended with a 52-22 first-round loss to Tumwater.
“That was a big deal, getting there,” Norvell said. “I think bringing back a competitiveness at Sehome was our top priority. We were competitive in a lot of games.”
Unfortunately, the program has won only five games in the three seasons since 2013, including an 0-10 record this year.
“This year was a drop off you don’t really want,” Norvell said, “but we were competitive in a lot of games while I was here. It was rewarding playing big teams and having them actually have to plan for you.”
Norvell, who teaches at Allen Elementary in Burlington, said one of his biggest obstacles was not being in the halls at Sehome.
“I felt me not being in the school, I wasn’t able to get fringe kids out,” he said. “You’ll get the heart-and-soul kids out no matter what. … Me not being in there made it difficult to really build up the program.”
Norvell added that it was difficult to keep assistant coaches on his staff with Bellingham Public Schools unable to offer many teaching positions to coaches.
But he did get the opportunity to coach two sons – Drew, who is now a redshirt freshman after walking on at Washington State, and Brady, whom Norvell said is expecting to be back at Sehome next fall.
“We’re still going to be living in the community,” Norvell said. “I’ll try to help out Sehome football however I can.”
Cushman said Sehome will post the coaching vacancy shortly after the start of the year and “will hope to have a new head coach and staff in place by mid-spring.”