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Longtime coach becomes AD

It has been rare not to see Mike Churchill roam a sideline at football games over the course of the past 40 years.

Either in the capacity of head coach or assistant coach, Churchill had been a field fixture at eight different high schools, two community colleges and one university.

Beginning this fall, his presence still will be known on the sideline, but he’ll be taking in the action in a whole new capacity.

Churchill is about to begin his first school year as athletic director at Laguna Beach High, a position he said he took over in April and one he’s become more and more familiar with since he’s taken on the job.

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He comes to Laguna after resigning as head coach of the football program at La Sierra High in Riverside.

The Laguna gig is his first as an athletic director.

He’s the fifth athletic director at Laguna in the past six years.

“I think it’s just time,” he said of taking on the athletic director role and leaving a successful coaching career that began in 1967 at Garden Grove High. “It’s a natural progression for me, because this is something I’ve always wanted to do.

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“It’s interesting because after all these years of coaching kids, now I have the chance to mentor these young coaches here at Laguna. I’m really excited about the upcoming school year.”

Churchill spent one year at La Sierra High in what would be the final stop in a coaching career that has taken him from Arizona to California.

In Arizona, he coached at Glendale Community College, Northern Arizona University and Cortez High. In addition to Garden Grove and La Sierra, his coaching stints in California found him at Damien, Royal, Riverside Poly on two different occasions, Clovis West, opening Carter, a new school in Rialto, and Riverside City College.

In the 1983-84 seasons, he guided Riverside Poly to consecutive Southern Section championships. The ’83 team went 14-0 and was named the top team in the state in the 3-A division by Cal Hi Sports. His ’84 edition earned a final ranking of sixth in the USA Today national poll.

He follows in the footsteps of Don Austin to Laguna Beach: Austin formerly served as principle at La Sierra and now holds the same position at Laguna Beach.

Churchill said Austin had hired him at La Sierra.

“When the Laguna position opened up, I applied,” he said.

“I was interested in the position for a few reasons but No. 1 was that Laguna is a great academic school. Also, in a survey athletic secretary Jill Edwards and I did recently, we found out that 65% of the Laguna student body participated in a CIF sport.

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“There are some great programs in this athletic department and the kids seem to enjoy them, and each other. In addition, the parents here are so great and so involved.”

Churchill, who resides in Dana Point, said he’s been around campus “a lot,” since he took over as AD in April.

“I attended sporting events at the end of this past school year and have been here on and off all summer,” he said. “It’s been great to get acquainted with the athletic department and student/athletes.

“I think this school has a great athletic program and we want to keep it going in that direction, to continue to build on past success. A lot of these kids go out of this school and become leaders of this community, or wherever they may go. I look forward to helping them prepare for the future.”

In the past 40 years, Churchill said he has only been away from coaching for two years. Might he return to it in some capacity, while at Laguna Beach High?

“No, I won’t do that,” he said. “I’m done with that. We have a great new coach here in Jonathan (Todd). He’s a quality person and the kids love him. He’s going to be great for this program. Besides, there’s a lot more for me to do now.”


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