May 20, 2024

In a stunning reversal, defending Southern Section Division 1 football champion Santa Ana Mater Dei is replacing Frank McManus as football coach after one season.

McManus won a Division 1 title last season after succeeding Mater Dei coaching legend Bruce Rollinson and was heralded as being “the right person to succeed Rollinson” by Mater Dei President Michael Brennan.

But Mater Dei announced in a news release and in a meeting with players on Friday afternoon that McManus was no longer the coach and no longer employed by the school. No reason was given for his dismissal.

Randall Wright, the coordinator of football operations, will be the interim coach with help from associate head coach Khaled Holmes. The school will begin an immediate search that is expected to be swift with spring football practice scheduled to begin.

Former Long Beach Poly coach Raul Lara is considered to be a top candidate. He is head coach at St. Anthony, where Brennan used to be president.

Despite winning the Southern Section title and Open Division state championship last season, there have been some internal grumbling about McManus’ philosophy of not playing backups enough in games. Mater Dei was already proceeding to replace some top graduates, picking up transfers from Ohio and Washington in recent weeks.

“We are saddened to announce Coach McManus’ departure from Mater Dei,” Brennan said in a school statement. “We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

There had been rumors earlier this week that a coaching change might be happening. Brennan did not respond when contacted via email Wednesday.

If Brennan goes outside the Mater Dei family for the next head coach, some might consider it risky opening up the program to an outsider. Rollinson was head coach beginning in 1989, and McManus served as an assistant for 16 years. The program has become among the most successful in the nation.

The last time Mater Dei went with an outsider for an important athletics position was the hiring of Amanda Waters, who was from San Diego, as athletic director. She was eventually forced out during an investigation into an alleged hazing incident when Rollinson was head coach.

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