To some high school football fans and aficionados in the Redwood Empire portion of the CIF North Coast Section, the departure of former Windsor football head coach Paul Cronin came as a shock, but as quiet as it's been kept to those in the real know, his leaving for a top-notch job has been brewing for several years.
Family, close friends, and a few other select individuals, knew that a few years before leaving Cardinal Newman for Windsor prior to the beginning of last season, a high profile Catholic school program in Southern California made an offer to Cronin that was hard to refuse, but those type of things are not news that’s reported.
Now, a week after an educator we consider the greatest high school football coach in the history of the Redwood Empire left for the drive to the Buckeye State and a new job at perennial Ohio Catholic school powerhouse Newark Catholic-Newark, and the dust has settled, we’ve decided to tell his story as we know it.
According to the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book Cronin leaves Windsor as the No. 5 all-time winningest coach in the history of the Redwood Empire with 222 career coaching victories. Bill Foltmer of Middleton is the leader at 296 career victories and still going, Kim Jorgensen of Ferndale is next after retiring with 245 wins, then comes Jason Franci who retired from Montgomery-Santa Rosa in 2012 as the leader from Sonoma County with 232 career wins, and finally Jack Moyer. He had 229 wins at Mendocino and then Fort Bragg before his 2010 retirement.
At 49-years old, Cronin, a 1991 graduate of Piner-Santa Rosa, likely would have become the all-time Redwood Empire leader and No. 2 all time in the entire North Coast Section behind legendary De La Salle coach and movie man Bob Ladouceur and his 399 career victories, which is also the most in state history. Another 13 or so years in the area would have given him those type of numbers.
“You know I don’t care about records,” Cronin answered with a grin when presented with the numbers.
Regardless of what some people may think or blurt out on social media, the reality is Cronin is the ultimate family man. The welfare of his wife Tracy and his three children, and their education in particular, Cardinal Newman senior daughter Tracy, Newman sophomore daughter Madison, and eighth-grader and son Jackson, is what drives him, and had a tremendous amount of impact on his decision.
“The lifestyle fits my wife better,” said Cronin of his decision to go to Newark Catholic.
Tracy, who incidentally is originally from the upper Midwest, has a degenerative back ailment that has gotten worse and made it difficult for her to comfortably do her job as a dental hygienist.
“With the package they offered me, that includes my two kids education, Tracy won’t have to work unless she wants to,” Cronin said.
A few years ago when he was contemplating leaving Newman for Windsor Cronin confided that a major Southern California Catholic school power had made him a substantial offer but it wasn’t right for Tracy and the kids. We also know that two different Southern California Catholic school high profile programs have been after him, but the better job wanted him to wait at least a year.
“Tracy and I were faced with a decision,” Cronin remarked. “Do we go two more years and see Madison through her senior year at Newman, or do we leave now?”
What people whose beliefs are based on gossip and bad information just don’t know is that in order to survive in the Sonoma County area with three kids in Catholic school and make ends meet, Tracy has to work.
“For us to maintain our lifestyle with three kids in Catholic school here Tracy has to work,” Cronin said. “If we went down south or in Ohio she doesn’t.”
“We had already discussed it and Tracy wasn’t going to make it five years to see Jackson through high school,” Cronin continued. “We had three choices. It was either going to be see Madison through and stay two more years at Windsor, or re-locate down south and take a big money job and have my family stay here and have her stop working, or move the family to the Midwest.”
“We talked with the kids and they didn’t want to be here and me be in Southern California so that option became a non-starter,” Cronin continued.
We knew about the SoCal offers but how did Cronin find Newark Catholic or how did they find him.
“For years I’ve flown to the Midwest and spoken for Glazier Clinics and Nike so I know a lot of people in those areas,” Cronin said.
On Friday, March 18 Cronin made the announcement that he was leaving for Ohio. We had coffee with him on Sunday. On Monday he was packed and ready for the 2,500-mile drive from Windsor to Newark, Ohio. Tracy and Hailey stayed behind until the oldest daughter graduates in a couple of months. Madison and Jackson left with Paul so they can begin their new education at Newark Catholic.
Just like that, in three days Cronin went from being the coach at Windsor to hitting the road for Ohio.
Cronin won a CIF North Coast Section title last season at Windsor, the first for the Jaguars since 2011, and six NCS championships at Cardinal Newman, including 2019 when his Cardinals won the CIF state Division 3-AA Bowl Game championship. Cronin lost twice in the state championships including 2006 when his Cardinals were on the verge of upsetting heavily favored Oaks Christian-Westlake Village in the Division III Bowl Game championship, but a missed extra point forced overtime and they lost, 27-20.
Even with all his success here in Northern California it looks like Cronin is jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Newark Catholic, a school with a similar enrollment to Cardinal Newman, has been an Ohio small school power for years. The Green Wave went 14-2 last season and although they lost 42-7 in the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division VII football state championship, they’ve won eight state championships and lost to a Marion Local-Maria Stein, Ohio team that has won 12 state titles.
“Football is king back there,” said Heritage Athletic Director and Prep2Prep football guru Nate Smith.
“He’ll love it back there. It’s a great town, close to Columbus on the west and great recreation just to the east,” continued Smith, who is familiar with the area from his days of coaching college football and recruiting in the Midwest.
“I can fit in anywhere, and when I was 22 I was in the Midwest and considered staying there,” Cronin said. “It’s all about helping kids and coaching football.”
Cronin is not 22 any longer with an opportunity to work his way. He’s starting at the top and it’s not going to be easy continuing the Newark Catholic tradition as an outsider from California. He’s moving to a much different environment where he’ll continue to have an X on his back with huge expectations and scrutiny.
The bottom line is if anyone can do it Paul Cronin is the man. California and the Redwood Empire lost one of the Golden State’s top high school football coaches but our loss is the Green Wave’s gain.