On Saturday, March 23, longtime Lancaster assistant football coach Eric Rolland will become the fifth football coach from LHS to be inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) Hall of Fame.
The 33rd enshrinement will kick off with a reception from 4:30-5:30 p.m. held at the Marriot West in Madison. The dinner will begin at 5:30 p.m.
Rolland, who has been coaching football at Lancaster for 28 years, joins Mert Wulf (1994), Bill Massey (2009), John Hoch (2010) and Terry Noble (2012) in the WFCA Hall of Fame.
Among the other coaches being inducted this year, is former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman, whom Rolland will be seated next to at the banquet.
“It’s kind of humbling,” said Rolland, who acknowledge that his years of service, and the program’s success, had a lot to do with him being nominated for the Hall of Fame.
“I don’t think I could have coached any place else and had this success,” he added.
Rolland, 56, began coaching while attending the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. As a student-teacher, he coached freshman football and basketball at Osseo-Fairchild High School.
What many people don’t know, is that Rolland’s father, Alvin, was a longtime wrestling coach at UW-EauClaire. He remains active with the wrestling program to this day, serving as tournament director.
So it should be no surprise that Eric took to coaching, and followed in the footsteps of his father.
“Just growing up in athletics in general, and I’d say my father had an influence on me,” Rolland said, on where his interest in coaching came from.
In the fall of 1980, Rolland began his first full-time teaching position at Tigerton High School, teaching Business Education. He also began his first full-time coaching duties for the Tigers, taking the controls of the football, softball and wrestling programs.
Five years later, in the summer of 1985, Eric and his wife, Annette, relocated to Lancaster, where Eric took a job teaching Business Education, and Annette teaching Elementary Learning Disabilities.
Rolland first began coaching football at Lancaster in 1986 when he took over the varsity reserve position from Ted Ragatz.
He also has been the boys’ and girls’ head track and field coach at Lancaster since 1993, which he has built into an exceptional program as well.
For the past 28 years, Rolland has also served as an assistant coach for the varsity football team, coaching the quarterbacks, running backs and ends.
As with many of the varsity assistant coaches under head coach John Hoch, Rolland has enjoyed a wealth of success that many high school coaches only dream of.
He has been a part of six state championship title, two state runner-up titles, 20 straight playoff appearances, and 15 conference championships.
As the head coach for the varsity reserves, he has compiled a 28-year record of 165-39, and has had nine undefeated seasons, including the last two.
When asked what makes Lancaster different from other football programs in the state, Rolland was quick to give his opinion.
“Obviously the number of coaches that have put in the number of years. I think the years of experience and probably the way we platoon have a lot to do with it.”
“Everyone has their own offense and their own defense, but not everyone platoons,” Rolland explained. “I think we are able to win a lot of games and be pretty competitive and become fairly high skilled by doing that.”
Another aspect of Lancaster coaches that can not be overlooked is their tireless time commitment devoted to their team and to the success of the program.
“It’s a lot of time, no doubt about it,” Rolland said. “The key to any success is that it’s a time commitment for sure.”
During the football season, coaches at Lancaster will meet six days a week, including Friday night after a football game, and on Sunday in preparation for the coming week.
As one might imagine, it also means the wife of a football coach has to deal with her husband’s time commitment.
“She’s allowed me to do everything that I’ve been able to do in athletics,” said Eric of Annette.
“She’s taken other roles in the family to help. When you talk about football season, and track season, you’re round circle of life gets pretty out of skew,” Rolland added.
“Being able to have a wife that allows me to do that has been really good as far as keeping everything else together.”
Over the course of his 28 years at Lancaster, Rolland has also had the opportunity to coach his three sons, Matt, Nate and Jordon, all of whom played quarterback, and all of whom have won state titles at Lancaster.
For obvious reasons, Rolland’s most memorable moments as a football coach involve his three sons playing at Camp Randall Stadium, and winning four state titles with them under center.
Matt led the 1993 team to a state championship, while Nate won two, in 2000 and 2001. Jordon was on the 2007 state championship team.
“Being close to the kids you coach is always special, but when your sons are involved in it, it puts added pressure on you for sure,” Rolland said. “But when you finish up and you’re standing (at Camp Randall), that’s pretty cool. You can’t beat that.”
There is little doubt where Rolland’s loyalties lye, and while he certainly could have taken a head coaching job somewhere else, he never gave it much thought over the years.
“I never really pursued that,” Rolland said of a head coaching position. “If I’m going to teach here, I’m blue and gold. I’m not going to teach here and go somewhere else to coach.”
“If I didn’t coach football here in the future, and I was still around, I wouldn’t go someplace else,” he added.
For those who attend Lancaster football games, you may notice that it is Rolland who leads the team onto the field, getting them pumped up as they prepare for battle.
“I don’t know when it really ever officially started, but I’ve been doing it a long time,” Rolland said. “I guess I was always good at yelling and screaming.”
As his two youngest children finish up their college studies, Jordan at UW-Eau Claire, and Kristin at UW-Platteville, Rolland has begun planning his departure from coaching in the near future.
He has hinted at coaching for one more football season and one more track season before stepping down and spending more time with his five children and four grandchildren.
“That’s probably the next phase of my life, to figure out my grandkids and kids, and kind of go in that direction,” Rolland said.
The WFCA Hall of Fame banquet on March 23, is open to the public for the price of a $45 ticket. Anyone interested in purchasing tickets can contact John Hoch at Lancaster High School prior to Feb. 15.