Correction: This story originally had an incorrect last name for Tramaine Thompson. The story has been corrected.
Keith Riggs said he put off moving into Allan Trimble’s office for as long as possible.
Almost everyone knows the Trojans’ new head football coach is replacing a legend.
Over his 22 seasons, Trimble amassed 13 state titles, more than any other Oklahoma high school football coach. He resigned in March due to the debilitating effects of incurable amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
“I think the circumstances of Allan’s retirement because of ALS were hard on everybody,” Riggs said. “To me, this is still Allan’s office, even though I’m sitting in it. It just doesn’t feel right.”
Riggs hasn’t yet mounted a plaque or photograph on an office wall. That’s unusual for a coach who has been involved in seven state championship teams in 15 years with the program.
Athletic Director Tony Dillingham gives Riggs a pass.
“Decorating your office is the last thing you want to do when you’re putting together a staff and trying to make all of those things mesh,” Dillingham said.
By all accounts, Riggs has set a blistering pace since being named as Trimble’s successor May 7. Along with hiring new assistants, he led the program through spring and summer work, spoke to booster groups and attended to various other issues inherited with the new role.
“You have an idea of the demands,” Riggs said, “but until you’re in this position, you can’t know everything that’s involved.”
“Fortunately, we have such great support here, and our booster club has been awesome. I’ve got some veteran parents who have been through this before, and all of them have certainly made the transition smoother,” he said.
On Friday, the 52-year-old husband of Nancy and father of adult daughters Kelsey and Alexandra will walk the sideline as a head coach for the first time as the Trojans visit arch-rival Bixby to open the 2018 regular season.
Bixby won 35-18 last year, its first victory over the Trojans in 40 years. The loss was part of Jenks’ first 0-4 start since 1968.
By any measure, the Trojans’ 7-5 season was a letdown, even if they came back to win seven straight games and reached the 6A, Division I semifinals. When a school has played in 24 state finals and won 16 gold balls, getting that far just isn’t enough.
Has Riggs spent his first 3½ months rebuilding confidence in the program?
“Maybe more (for people) on the outside than on the inside,” he said. “The expectations of this program haven’t changed because we had a down year.
“You really don’t have to say anything to these young men. Twenty-three of our 27 seniors have been playing Jenks football since the third grade. They know all about the program. They know about the past, and they want to be a part of the future. They want to create a legacy for teams to come.”
Riggs was Trimble’s defensive coordinator for the past eight years, a span that produced four gold balls (2012-15), one state runner-up and three semifinal finishes.
Dillingham said the Trojans received approximately 25 applications for the head coaching job but that insiders always viewed Riggs as a viable candidate, along with other coaches in the program.
“(Riggs) was Allan’s go-to guy. He worked a lot in the office with Allan, so I would think he was probably (Trimble’s) closest confidant,” Dillingham said.
Riggs said he is quietly confident about the job. If there is huge pressure hanging over his head, he is simply working too hard to worry about it.
“I feel confidence comes with experience,” he said. “I’m sure that at some point down the road — and it may not be until December — I’ll be able to sit back and reflect on the new role. Right now, we’re just trying to get ready for the next day and the next opponent.”
Former offensive coordinator Dub Maddox and former offensive line coach Doug Greenwood left to become head coaches at Victory Christian and Gravette, Arkansas, respectively. Safeties coach Jason Sport is Bartlesville’s new defensive coordinator.
In all, Riggs had to replace seven men from last year’s staff. Greg Calabrese and Dan Nickles were promoted as offensive and defensive coordinators, and former Trojans standouts Tramaine Thompson and Trent Taber were among the new hires.
“(Thompson and Taber) are gonna be pluses, even though they are first-year coaches,” Riggs said. “They know the program and what our expectations are. They bring a familiarity, and our kids know all about them, so there’s an instant respect there.”
Facing heart surgery and an out-of-state doctor’s visit, Mary Patton was concerned that she would be unable to participate in such an important runoff election Tuesday.
“That’s my consultation day, so I’m really glad they have early voting,” Patton said Thursday afternoon in the parking lot of the Tulsa County Election Board. “I thought, ‘Well, I’m not going to get to vote.’
“But then I heard on the news I could come down here.”
Patton was one of 1,251 people who cast ballots Thursday, the first of three days for early, in-person voting with much more at stake than a typical runoff.
Ballots are available at the Election Board, 555 N. Denver Ave., and Hardesty Regional Library, 8316 E. 93rd St.
The hours for both locations are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
Gwen Freeman, secretary of the Election Board, on Thursday afternoon said a “steady stream” of voters had been entering both polling sites.
While “obviously not the kind of crowds” drawn to the June primary that included the polarizing State Question 788 to legalize medical marijuana, Freeman said longtime employees were “very, very pleased” with the turnout so far.
“For a runoff primary like this, I think we’re doing really well,” Freeman said.
In June, the rate of early voters showing up varied but “dramatically increased” as the final Saturday approached, she said. The same could be true of this three-day stretch.
The Tuesday election may be quite memorable in its own right, with by far the most runoffs statewide in at least a generation and perhaps unprecedented. Many are genuine ideological contests, particularly among the GOP.
There were 6,632 Tulsa County early voters who checked yes or no on SQ 788 in June. There were 6,453 early votes in Tulsa County for the three primary races for governor.
Precinct polling locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday for the primary runoffs. The general election is Nov. 6.
Elaine Emmons sported an “I voted” sticker Thursday as she exited the Election Board.
Work obligations make it easier for her to vote early, which she said she often does to ensure her vote gets counted.
“There’s lighter crowds, and it’s easier in and out,” Emmons said. For complete coverage of the election, go to tulsaworld.com/election2018.
More than 200 of Tulsa Public Schools’ least qualified teachers are about to get a $5,000 pay raise in hopes of attracting a more qualified candidate. The Tulsa School board approved changing the starting salary for teacher apprentices from $25,000 to $30,000 Monday evening.
“I hope it helps us attract a higher-quality candidate,” said Coy Nesbitt, director of talent services at TPS.
TPS Chief Financial Officer Nolberto Delgadillo said it would cost the district $200,000, money that came with the additional funding TPS received as part of the teacher pay raise that passed in March.
The teacher apprentice position at TPS is for teachers who aren’t certified at all, Nesbitt explained. He said many are waiting on their traditional certification status or for their request to be emergency-certified to be approved by the Oklahoma State Board of Education.
TPS has about 202 apprentice teachers coming into the school year, Nesbitt said. He said he expects that number to be “down significantly” by the end of the month as more apprentice teachers become certified.
Nesbitt described those who work as teacher apprentices as taking a risk — they often have to pay for classes needed for a certification for example — and that the raise may better enable them to afford those classes. It could also encourage more people to become teacher apprentices, he said.
TPS has declining enrollment and state aid. However, Delgadillo said, “Right now we felt extremely comfortable and excited to be able to do this.”
He said some of the calculation TPS made before considering the apprentice teacher pay raise was the relative experience of its teaching corps and that helped factor in the decision to give apprentice teachers a raise.
Districts receive state aid based on the number of student a district has, not based on the seniority of its teachers. The teacher pay-raise increases are larger for more experienced and degree-laden teachers, meaning the more junior a teacher is, the less money he or she costs the district.
If none of the apprentice teachers become certified, which keeps them from being paid on the TPS salary schedule for certified teachers, the effort could cost the district more than $1 million.
However, that’s a drop in the bucket in terms of total TPS salary. The district, with its nearly 7,000 employees, is projected to pay more than $207 million in salaries this year, according to budget documents.