DARLINGTON – After 36 years of teaching in the Darlington School District and coaching football at Darlington High School, Scott Zywicki has decided to retire from his physical education/heath teaching position as well as his coaching position at the end of the 2017-18 school year.
He announced his intention to step down as head coach immediately to give the school ample time to find a quality candidate to replace him as the leader of the Redbirds’ football program.
“I have mixed emotions. I know I’m going to miss the games and the preparation with the team, but the one thing I won’t miss, which is mainly the reason I’ve decided to retire, is all the extra things you need to do as a head coach, Football is a full-time, year-round commitment, and it doesn’t allow you to do a lot of things with your family. I don’t know what it’s like to have a summer vacation,” said Zywicki, who has three children– two sons, Camron and Braden, and a daughter, Trisha– with his wife, Diane.
“Who knows, maybe my wife will be pushing me out the door before too long,” he joked.
In his 34 years with the Redbirds, Zywicki compiled a 300-109 overall record while being a part of 21 SWAL conference championship teams, four state championship teams and eight state teams. He has been on the coaching staff for all 29 of the program’s playoff appearances.
“You combine what he has done with a head coach here with what he has done as an assistant coach and it really is unbelievable, especially at a school our size,” said Darlington athletic director Kurt Cohen. I’ve been fortunate in my seven years as AD to have such a strong presence leading our football program to continue our strong tradition. My hats off to him.”
Zywicki, who graduated from Greendale High School in 1976 and went on to UW-La Crosse where he played defensive back on the UWL football team while earning his degree in education before graduating in 1982, came to Darlington right out of college and soon found himself coaching year round at the school– tackling football in the fall, wrestling in the winter and track and field in the spring– for the first 10 years of his career.
“Once I got to Darlington and developed a bond with the community and started to put down roots, I had no interest in going anywhere else. I wanted to develop the kids I had here and do the best I could do,” admitted Zywicki.
His first year coaching football came in 1983 as a member of the late Gary Ringen’s staff– a season that saw the Redbirds finish 0-9.
Douglas McArthur took over for Ringen in 1984; and, following another 0-9 campaign that saw the program’s losing streak swell to 22 games, he started to turn things around for the Redbirds with Zywicki’s help.
After going 2-7 in 1985 and posting a 5-4 record in 1986, the Redbirds’ turnaround was completed in 1987 when they rebounded from a 17-8 loss to Cuba City in their season opener to win 12 straight games and capture the school’s first state title with a 28-17 victory over Florence.
With Zywicki serving as an assistant coach behind McArthur (117-37 record from 1984-1996) and then Dennis Bogacz (75-19 from 1997-2004), the Redbirds would run off a string of 18 consecutive playoff appearances that included state titles in 1990, 1991 and 1995, state runner-up finishes in 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1997 and state semifinal appearances in 1988, 1989 and 1998.
Those Redbird teams claimed conference titles in 13 of those 18 seasons and won nine or more games 16 times with double-digit win totals in 12 seasons.
Zywicki became just the sixth head coach in Darlington High School history in 2005 and extended the ‘Birds playoff run to a then-state record 19 seasons after taking the ’05 squad to a share of the SWAL title and a Level 3 tournament appearance.
Darlington missed the playoffs in 2006 and 2007, but under Zywicki’s direction the program has rebounded with 10 straight post-season appearances, including four consecutive WIAA Division 6 state runner-up finishes from 2013-16.
The Redbirds won eight SWAL titles in Zywick’s 13 seasons as head coach.
All told, the Redbirds went 192-65 in Zywicki’s 21 seasons as an assistant coach with 18 playoff appearances (45-14 record), 13 conference titles, four state titles and four state runner-up finishes.
As a head coach, he has led the ‘Birds to a 108-44 overall record with 10 playoff berths (25-11), eight conference titles and four state runner-up finishes.
“I’ve had so many great memories here at Darlington and many great relationships with the kids. Hopefully I’ve taught them something along the way because they have certainly taught me something about myself. I’ve grown, matured and developed as a person over the years, and I hope I’ve helped them in some way and that they’re better for knowing me,” he remarked.
Zywicki joined legendary Darlington head coach Walter “Wadzy” Martens (183-61-14 from 1926-1960) and his friend and mentor McArthur as Redbird coaches in the Wisconsin Football Coaches (WFCA) Hall of Fame in 2016.
“I put a lot of pressure upon myself to succeed here, and I hope I have instilled that work ethic in the kids because it will go a long ways in their futures,” he said. “I take a great deal of pride in our program and the kids who have come through here. The kids who went through the program were outstanding students and outstanding community members as well as great athletes. They were kids you can stand behind and be very proud of their accomplishments. Hopefully, we made the community proud of our program.”
The next Darlington football coach will become just the seventh head coach in the 93 years of the Redbirds’ program, and– with 578 wins– they will be taking the third winningest program in state history behind Marquette University (713) and Green Bay East (583).
Cohen said the position will not be officially posted until the end of February, which means a new head coach will not be announced until sometime this spring.
“We understand football doesn’t start on August first anymore. There is a lot of preparation and summer work involved. I’d like to think we have a fairly desirable position and that we’ll get come good candidates,” commented Cohen