Ex-college coach takes over Falcon football

Chris Tormey, a Division I college football coach for 35 years, takes over the South Whidbey Falcon football team as its head coach.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Chris Tormey, a Division I college football coach for 35 years, takes over the South Whidbey Falcon football team as its head coach.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Chris Tormey has a lot of name recognition around Western Washington.

That’s what happens when you’re part of the 1991 Division I national championship University of Washington football team, for which Tormey was an assistant coach under legendary Huskies coach Don James.

The bright lights, million dollar stadiums, blue chip recruiting and teams of more than a hundred top athletes are all over for Tormey.

Now, Tormey is in charge of the South Whidbey Falcons, a program that has less than 100 players between its varsity and junior varsity teams. Despite the major change from the limelight of college sports to the spotty lighting at Waterman’s Field, Tormey said South Whidbey is the right place for him.

“I think it’s a great match for me,” he said. “I’ll be a little bit out of my comfort zone the next couple of weeks.”

For the past three decades, Tormey has coached Division I college football teams like Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Hawaii, Washington State and Wyoming. He describes his professional coaching odyssey in an understated manner.

“I’ve had a few jobs over the last 35 years,” he said.

His last job was at Wyoming, where he was the defensive coordinator until the end of the 2013 season. Since then, his wife took a job with the Oak Harbor School District and they moved to Coupeville. For years, Tormey said, they wanted to make Whidbey Island their home.

Tormey is one of the first out-of-district football hires in decades. Previously, the head coaching job was split between Andy Davis and Mark Hodson, both teachers at South Whidbey High School, who decided to step down to spend more time with their families after a dozen of years calling plays. Legendary South Whidbey coach Jim Leierer still visits the team during its early fall practices and continues his tradition of taking a picture of each player so he can pray for them.

South Whidbey is also a football program built on traditions: rows of players walking out hand-in-hand past the grandstand onto Waterman’s Field, the singing of the fight song after each game win or lose to the fans, and “ohana,” Hawaiian for family, and a term that’s been used to rally teams for all of Davis and Hodson’s tenure.

Even though he’s the new kid on the block, Tormey said he doesn’t have plans to do away with any traditions and that he respects that they are the foundation which many teams are built upon.

“I’m open to whatever works best in terms of helping our guys become the best they can be,” Tormey said.

His first official act as the head coach will be a meeting after school for all interested football players Monday, May 12. Hiring the rest of the coaching staff will follow, and Tormey said he wanted to meet with anybody interested in coaching the Falcons. One of the big changes he expects is the transition from coaches focusing on a single aspect — defense, special teams, linebackers —  to being in charge of every player.

“As a head coach at a high school, you have to wear every hat,” he said.

South Whidbey’s school board directors will make the hiring official at its next business meeting when they approve the May personnel report. But since South Whidbey High School Athletic Director Kelly Kirk received  what he called a surprise email and phone call from Tormey last week, the job vacancy has basically been filled, and the coaching contract was signed May 9.


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