Chad Smith new Chillicothe High football head coach

Hire quietly disclosed by district Wednesday

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Then-Chillicothe High School football assistant coach and defensive coordinator Chad Smith watches the Hornets' defense compete during a 2019 home game against St. Joseph: Benton. On Wednesday afternoon, Chillicothe school district officials disclosed quietly that Smith, also the high school's wrestling head coach since 2014, has been hired as new head coach of the football Hornets.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

In an extremely-low-key disclosure Wednesday, the Chillicothe R-2 School District publicly revealed it has hired Chad Smith to be head coach of the school’s Missouri Sports Hall of Fame football program for 2021.

The action was taken during a midday special meeting of the district’s Board of Education on Tuesday, according to a document e-mailed to local media just before 2 p.m. Wednesday.

“I was interested in the head football job because I love the game of football and everyone in Chillicothe wants our football program to be great,” Smith replied to questions e-mailed to him by the C-T overnight Wednesday-Thursday.

“Being in this school system for seven years has really helped me get to know the students and their families, so I am vested in this community and I want to do everything I can to make us successful.”

Dan Nagel, CHS principal and director of athletics who led the search for a new head coach for a second time in three years, commented on the new head coach’s selection, shared with the C-T by e-mail, “Coach Smith is well respected as a coach and person among the student-athletes and with the community.  Coach Smith is a unifier of all stakeholders pertaining to the football program and will try to help lead the program so that all are pulling the rope in the same direction toward the best possible outcomes for our athletes in the sport of football.”

While not responding to an inquiry regarding approximately how many applications for the head coaching vacancy were received after former head coach Tim Rulo submitted his resignation from the post after three seasons in late January, Nagel did share, “The top 3 candidates of those that applied were interviewed.”

Rulo said he resigned his coaching and teaching positions in the district to seek opportunities closer to family. He since has been hired as head coach of mid-Missouri’s Russellville’s virtually-new football program.  

Chad Smith, Chillicothe High School wrestling head coach and a football assistant coach for the past seven years, has been hired as new head coach of CHS' football Hornets for the 2021 season. It is his first football head coaching job. He served as defensive coordinator for head coach Tim Rulo the past three season.

Smith has served as an assistant football coach for the high school Hornets since his arrival in Chillicothe in 2014 and has been CHS wrestling head coach over that same time span. He affirmed to the C-T he intends to stay wrestling head coach.

Smith was football Hornets defensive coordinator during all three seasons of Rulo’s tenure here.

Joining the Chillicothe district staff in 2014-15 after a number of years at Hamilton, where – in addition to be wrestling head coach – he served on the football coaching staff of CHS alumnus Dave Fairchild, son of the Chillicothe program’s architect, the late Bob Fairchild, Smith spent four years as an assistant coach under then-CHS head coach Phil Willard, working with the offensive and defensive lines. Willard also utilized the same basic offensive and defensive systems embedded in the program by the elder Fairchild, making Smith a natural fit for the gridiron staff.

After Willard’s and most of his staff’s retirement/resignations after the 2017 season, Smith agreed to stay on as an assistant to Rulo, the only Willard assistant to do so.

When Nagel, who served as defensive coordinator for the last several years of Willard’s 20-years tenure, ascended to the CHS principal’s position from assistant principal in 2018-19, he needed to shed his coaching duty. Smith then agreed to take on the coordinator’s job for the new head coach.

Between the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Smith, who has a young family and whose wife Abby is Chillicothe Middle School principal, expressed a desire and intent to terminate his football coaching. However, at some point early last summer, with the program and district scrambling to grapple with the complications of the COVID-19 pandemic, he opted to continue on with the football program. He also is strength and conditioning instructor at the high school during the school year and summer weight program co-coordinator.

Now, he is tasked with quickly assembling his own staff of assistants, some of which likely will be holdovers. A number of “newcomers” figure to have previous ties to the CHS program.

“We are currently working on getting the best staff in place, We have awesome coaches in the district!” Smith disclosed to the C-T at midday Thursday.

At least one of Rulo’s assistants, Nik Ferri, had his resignation from Chillicothe coaching and teaching positions at the end of this school year accepted at Tuesday’s board meeting.