Rulo resigns CHS positions; football head coach search begun
Third-year coach wants to find post closer to ailing father, St. Louis home
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
After three years as Chillicothe High School as football head coach and as a R-2 school district teacher, Tim Rulo has submitted a letter of resignation to district officials, effective at the end of this school year.
The outgoing Hornets coach, whose football teams posted a composite 16-18 record in his 3-seasons stint, told the C-T his reasons for leaving are very personal and unrelated to the fortunes of the CHS football program, which looked to have a promising future for the next couple of years, based on returning talent.
“The decision to leave a program and the players you care about is never an easy one,” Rulo shared.
“The challenging past year in the pandemic has clarified values for many of us, myself included. Being this far from my parents has been surprisingly difficult as they get older and my children miss them dearly.
“My family and I are eager to return closer to family and friends.”
Rulo’s father, who assisted his son from his St. Louis home with team statistical accumulation and as a sounding board, is currently fighting cancer.
Dan Nagel, Chillicothe High director of athletics and principal, told the C-T Monday the search for a successor to Rulo was already beginning and will continue until a new coach is hired. He did not indicate a particular time frame for completing that hire.
As for Rulo’s departure, Nagel commented, “Coach Rulo put a great deal of time and hard work or effort into the head football coaching position.”
Rulo, who had guided South Callaway to state runnerup finish about seven years earlier, took over the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame program on the heels of an outstanding 2017 season, but faced both a roster nearly devoid of players with significant varsity experience and an almost-completely-new assistant coaching staff.
Those factors predictably led to a struggling first CHS season for Rulo. Transitioning to not only new coaches, but a new offensive system, the team was shut out in its first three contests and opened the year 1-6.
However, with the players on the team then having nearly two months of experience with the new coaches and system, the 2018 Hornets took their last two regular-season games and their first playoff contest before losing in the district semifinals for a 4-7 season.
With a high percentage of players from his first season back as seniors for his second go-around, Rulo guided the Hornets to 7-2 regular-season mark and a trip to the district championship game, where Savannah endied CHS’ 9-3 campaign.
Last fall, playing amid the constant threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and having had almost no normal offseason interaction with the players for that reason, another largely-experience-free group of players resulted in a season similar, record-wise, to Rulo’s first season in charge.
Although more competitive than the 2018 squad in many of the games, the Hornets opened again with seven losses before rallying for 3-consecutive victories. Facing a heavily-favored Richmond team in the district semifinals, the Hornets led at halftime and still in contention at the end of three quarters, the Hornets had their season conclude at 3-8 with a 62-41 loss which was the highest-scoring game in CHS history.
As in 2018, the 2020 team utilized a very large number of underclassmen, leading to expectations of a strong 2021 campaign. However, in a change, many of those 2020 underclassmen were sophomores, making it more probable that the yo-yo pattern of Rulo’s first three years would be ended, at least temporarily. He confided as the season wound down that additional promising talent in the freshman class and eighth grade gave promise of a string of solid or strong years to come.
“I have absolutely no doubt that the Hornet football team will be extremely successful moving forward,” Rulo commented for the C-T Monday. “There is a great deal of talent coming and there are coaches who will continue to care for and coach these athletes well.
“I am grateful for every athlete I have had the opportunity to coach here and I wish them all the best as they move forward.
Rulo, who previously head coached at South Callaway High and Jefferson City: Helias, said he and his wife and their two young children enjoyed the time they’ve spent here.
“I am grateful for the time I have had here, the memories I have made with my family, and the young people I have had the privilege to coach in this historic community,” he stated.
“Chillicothe is a special place and there are many things and people we will miss.”