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Thursday, 05 December 2013 14:05

Big Foot's Wedig bringing winning ways to Beloit

Written by  CSI Media sports
Football coach Rod Wedig Football coach Rod Wedig Terry Mayer/file photo

STATELINE NEWS -- Rodney Wedig definitely doesn’t back down from a challenge. He resurrected the Big Foot High School football program into one of the best in the state.

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The Chiefs had never reached the postseason despite three league championships in the 1970s, but Wedig’s teams qualified for the playoffs 11 consecutive times (10 in Division 4 and once in D-3).

He takes that resume to Beloit Memorial, a moribund Division 1, Big Eight Conference program.

One of the most successful football coaches in Rock Valley Conference history, Wedig is expected to be named Beloit Memorial’s head coach next week.

Beloit Superintendent Steve McNeal will recommend the hiring of Wedig to the school board Tuesday night.

Wedig took over the Chiefs program in 2003 and led the school to three Division 4 state title games, including a title in 2009. The 46-year-old Wedig leaves following the program’s seventh straight Rock Valley South Conference title and a current 48-game regular-season Rock Valley winning streak that dates back to 2006. Wedig compiled a 21-10 postseason record at Big Foot.

Another factor that, despite the team’s success, could have been a big part of Wedig’s decision was a heated midseason confrontation this year with a parent who basically told the coach, "You will play my son, or else," according to an October post on Wedig’s Facebook page.

If anyone can turn the Beloit Memorial program around, it’s Wedig. Just look what he did at Big Foot, a program that went 4-41 from 1995-’99 to one that in recent years has produced such standouts as Travis Frederick of the Dallas Cowboys, Michael and Kenneth Walker of St. Cloud State and Mason Dixon of Beloit College.

Beloit Memorial was 3-42 the last five seasons, including 1-8 in 2013. Head coach Jon Dupuis resigned at the end of last season.

Wedig’s teams averaged more than nine victories during his 11 seasons at the helm. His Chiefs also qualified for the WIAA playoffs every year, reaching at least Level 3 in five of the last six campaigns.

Big Foot compiled a 103-26 record, while the Purple Knights won nine games -- total -- during Wedig’s tenure. Beloit Memorial hasn’t qualified for the playoffs since 1999.

McNeal and Wedig talked about the Beloit Memorial opening during the recent WIAA state football championship games in Madison, and things fell into place quickly after that.

"It was a tough decision to leave Big Foot," Wedig told the Gazette. "Beloit was not even on the radar until recently, but going to a bigger school was always something I’ve wanted to do. I know Beloit’s been down (record-wise) the last few years, but so was Big Foot when I took over. We were 15-15 my first three years at Big Foot before things started to turn around."

Wedig will finish out the year at Big Foot before moving to Beloit in the summer. He’s hoping to teach social studies at Beloit Memorial after teaching psychology and history at Big Foot.

The biggest challenge facing Wedig at Beloit will be getting kids to go out and keeping them eligible. Beloit’s eligibility bylaws, set forth by the school board, are the strictest in the Big Eight Conference, however the board is expected to make changes to the policy.

"The eligibility thing is actually something Steve and I discussed, because I know it’s a big issue right now," Wedig said. "That is something the school board is going to discuss and may change.

"I’ve always felt that the kids that are struggling are the ones that need structure the most," he added. "That’s something that athletics can provide, whether it be basketball practice, football practice or anything extracurricular after school."

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