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Randy Starks believed it was time to move on from Manassas Park

Former NFL Pro Bowler Randy Starks (left), seen here at practice Aug. 1, 2022, was entering his second year as Manassas Park's head football coach before resigning Aug. 7. (InsideNoVa/David Fawcett)
Former NFL Pro Bowler Randy Starks (left), seen here at practice Aug. 1, 2022, was entering his second year as Manassas Park’s head football coach before resigning Aug. 7. (InsideNoVa/David Fawcett)

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After seeing the numbers dwindle at football practice, Randy Starks knew there was no chance for Manassas Park High School to field a football team.

So when Manassas Park announced Aug. 8 it was cancelling the 2022 football season, Starks had already decided to move on as the Cougars’ head coach before the official word came out. The day before, Starks said he informed Manassas Park he was resigning.

The school initially planned to determine the program’s future for this season Aug. 1, but then postponed the decision until Aug. 5 with the hopes more players would come out. Only eight were in attendance Aug. 5.

Manassas Park averaged a turnout of 11 players over the seven days it held practice from July 28-Aug. 5.

Starks said the season’s impending cancellation was one reason he chose to step away. But he also said he had issues with the non-district portion of the schedule which he believed put Manassas Park at a competitive disadvantage.

“The whole point in me coming here was to give [the kids] confidence,” Starks said. “But the schedule did not give us the opportunity.”

Starks understood it was a hard sell to convince players to come out for a team that went 0-10 and were outscored 553-7 in 2021. Starks said he tried without success to get kids from other sports like basketball to consider football.

“If you are getting your butts whooped, I understand why they don’t,” Starks said.

This was the second year of the two-year cycle for Manassas Park’s schedule. The Cougars dropped their season-opener Aug. 25 at Osbourn earlier this summer, leaving them with nine games. Osbourn, a Class 6 school that went 8-4 and reached the playoffs, defeated Class 3 Manassas Park 56-0 in 2021. The game was called with three minutes left before halftime.

Starks said he thought the program was on the verge of turning a corner coming into this season when 40 kids signed up for offseason workouts. But he said a COVID outbreak during the winter hurt future turnout.

“We never recuperated and kids lost interest,” Starks said.

Starks said he was also unwilling to continue as coach if Manassas Park ended up playing eight-man football for next season, a possibility the school is considering.

“Eight-man football is not my thing,” Starks said. “Basically, you’d be starting from scratch and I’m not the man for that.”

Starks, who commuted to practice from Charles County (MD) and Stafford County, said he had no intention of stepping down if the Cougars did have a season.

“Even if we only had 10 kids at practice, I’m still here,” Starks said.

Manassas Park was Starks’ first job as a head football coach. A former NFL Pro Bowler and University of Maryland standout, Starks began at Manassas Park as an assistant for the 2020 team that played in the spring of 2021 due to the pandemic.

He said he would like to remain in coaching either in high school or college. Starks finishes up his master’s degree from Georgetown in the fall.

“I’m definitely going to miss those [Manassas Park players],” Starks said.

Manassas Park activities director Dan Forgas said the school will take its time in finding Starks’ replacement.

“There’s no deadline,” Forgas said. “This is open-ended. We’re in a unique situation.”

Typically, new head football coaches are hired after the high school season is over. In addition, the hiring school needs a teaching position in place for the coach. And the coach’s current school must be willing to release that person from their contract in the middle of the school year for the coach to switch over to the new school as a teacher.

Forgas said Manassas Park said the school will consider hiring someone who is not a teacher and will work outside of the building. But ideally, they’d like to have someone in the school during the day.

“It’s a fine line to walk,” Forgas said. “In the old days, you have teachers who also coached. To teach and coach these days is more challenging.”