During a board meeting Wednesday, the Nevada Joint Union High School District voted 4-1 in favor of hiring Dennis Houlihan as the new varsity football head coach at Nevada Union High School.
Houlihan, who was accused of the misuse of booster funds seven years ago, made a tear-filled speech about how he made mistakes in the midst of a failing marriage but has since turned his life around.
“Some years ago, there was an article published alleging lies and deceit … It was a personal deep, dark path I was on,” Houlihan said. “I made bad decisions that weren’t the way it was portrayed in the paper. It had to do with me and my wife, and I was lost in my ways, and my family triumphed over tragedy.
“I moved back here like a little kid running into his mother’s arms. I love this town and grew up here. There’s so much community support and seven years later, people see me for who I am.”
After he gave his speech, the majority of the audience clapped.
Nevada Union principal Mike Blake, longtime community member Mike Bratton, coaches who worked with Houlihan or knew his parents — who founded the Junior Miners program — all showed their support. Parents spoke through tears, one football player cried, and parents involved with the booster club spoke of the significance of football to their kids and the community and their support of Houlihan.
“I feel like you have shown integrity,” said board president Katy Schwarz. “Boys need a good role model and respect and appreciate you coming forward.”
The decision by the board still involved a challenge and careful level of consideration, Schwarz said, adding, “We talked to a lot of people and got a lot of info.”
Board member Richard Baker said he has known Houlihan for years after he coached his son’s baseball team.
“They were allegations,” Baker said. “He was not convicted, and a man should own up to his mistakes, and he owned up to his mistakes.”
Board member Wayne Klauer voted against Houlihan’s hire but said he hopes he does a good job in the future.
“I appreciate the public info and support,” Klauer said. “My ‘no’ vote was based on his past record. Trust and truth are my priorities.”
Houlihan inherits a Miner team that went 5-6 last season and made the playoffs, losing in the first round to top-seeded Franklin. As the junior varsity coach last season, he led the Miners to a 5-5 record with wins over Granite Bay, Elk Grove, McQueen, Woodcreek and Del Oro. Houlihan and the Miners went 3-2 in Sierra Foothill League play.
In Houlihan’s five years as a head coach at Fallbrook High School in Southern California, his teams were 31-26 and won two league titles. His most successful season came in 2003, when he led Fallbrook to the San Diego Section Division I title game before falling to Torrey Pines, 7-3.
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230. Walter Ford contributed to this article.
“There’s so much community support and seven years later, people see me for who I am.”
— Dennis Houlihan,
NU football head coach