When a football program is shut down, coaches and players are left high and dry, wondering what their next move will be. That was the case for Humboldt State University this past year. After struggling to keep their football program alive for multiple decades, it officially shut down after the 2018 season.
California Lutheran University is one of the beneficiaries of this shut down, gaining former Kingsmen football quarterback and Cal Lutheran alum Zach Shultis as the new offensive coordinator.
Since leaving Cal Lutheran, Shultis coached at San Diego State University before moving on to coach at Humboldt State for two years. Upon moving to Humboldt, Shultis found out that the program had been struggling for a while.
“When I got hired, we were kind of told, ‘Hey, by the way, this is something we have been dealing with for the last 20 or so years, it’s brought up every year and we will see where it goes,’” Shultis said.
The football program was going to be cancelled after his first year there, but the community rallied and fundraised enough money to continue the program for another year.
However, a month and a half before camp started, they were told it would be the last year, as growing deficits were too big of a factor going forward.
Kingsmen football Head Coach Ben McEnroe also had a coaching stint at Humboldt State from ’99 to ’03.
“They had been talking about dropping football up there since the early ’90s when the Cal State system started dropping football programs as a cost-cutting measure,” McEnroe said.
Shultis said he considers himself lucky to have a job after the program shut down, and that many staff members are still looking for employment.
He is planning on using his experience from playing on the field at Cal Lutheran under McEnroe, as well as coaching both D-I and D-II football in hopes of bringing the Kingsmen back to the top.
Shultis emphasized how much he admires the work ethic and tenacity of the players he worked with in upper division athletics and is hoping to bring that sort of environment to Cal Lutheran. He said he has already been pleasantly surprised in the work ethic he has seen during spring ball.
This homecoming for Shultis came as a surprise for football faculty adviser and professor Michaela Reaves. Reaves taught both McEnroe and Shultis in history when they were students at Cal Lutheran and raves about their good character and work ethic.
“He is very ethical. In sports there is a lot of chicanery that goes down, and that is not Zach, and it’s not Ben either. So I think, from that viewpoint, they will be a really good fit for each other,” Reaves said.
The upcoming season for Cal Lutheran football is looking promising as coaches are taking a new approach, focusing on young talent.
“We haven’t won a conference championship in five years or so, but the good thing is that the conference hasn’t run away,” McEnroe said.
Going into the 2019 season, Shultis said he is grateful and excited to see what the team accomplishes.
“I was welcomed back and extremely fortunate to be given this opportunity. A lot of coaches don’t get that same opportunity,” Shultis said.