Meyer steps down as Lady Jays head coach
Takes football position at Georgia Southern
Originally published January 16, 2014 at 5:05 p.m., updated January 16, 2014 at 10:54 p.m.
It was an opportunity too good to pass up — a chance to coach at the NCAA Division I level for a man he considers his second father.
Shane Meyer, in his fifth year as head coach of the Jefferson City Lady Jays basketball program, stepped down Thursday to accept a position with the Georgia Southern football program.
“Leaving the kids is a tough thing to do,” Meyer said as he was driving to Statesboro, Ga. “It is contrary to what we’ve talked about, but this is an opportunity that I could not pass up for myself or my family.”
Meyer, 37, came to Jefferson City from the University of Central Missouri, where he was a graduate assistant in the football program under head coach Willie Fritz.
Last Thursday, Fritz accepted the head coaching position at Georgia Southern after spending four seasons as head coach at Sam Houston State. The move to Georgia Southern set things into motion and Fritz made the job offer Tuesday.
“We’ve talked about me coaching for him for a few years, but he’s never had the flexibility to do that before,” Meyer said. “We had talked about if things ever break right, I might join him as a coach. We work well together, he knows I’ll do what he needs.
“We talked about the possibility of it happening over the weekend, I thought the timeline would be a little longer, but the decision had to be made quickly.”
Meyer also played for Fritz in the late 1990s at Central Missouri. Meyer was a four-time all-conference kicker in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association for the Mules and a 2009 inductee into the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
“I consider (Fritz) to be like a second father, a role model,” Meyer said. “This is a great opportunity, (Fritz) is the one guy in America who would hire me for this. Working for him was one of the best times of my life and the chance to do it again was not something I could pass up.”
Meyer will be the director of player personnel for Georgia Southern, which is moving from the Southern Conference to the Sun Belt Conference next season.
“It will be something to do with coaching a position as well as some things off the field,” he said. “This is beyond a coaching opportunity, it’s an opportunity professionally to play to my strengths both on and off the field and may open some doors down the road.”
In a statement, Jefferson City superintendent Brian Mitchell said the school is sorry to see Meyer leave.
“We hate to lose him, but the opportunity to move to a Division I university would be difficult to pass up,” Mitchell said. “I think it speaks to the quality of people we have working with the student-athletes here in the Jefferson City Public Schools that one of our own is moving into such a prestigious position.”
Meyer’s wife, Christine, is Jefferson City’s head volleyball coach. She will complete the school year in Jefferson City before moving to Georgia.
“This is going to put a lot of stress on her, to have to function as a single-parent household for the next few months,” Meyer said. “She’s a strong individual, we do anything we can for each other and she gave me her stamp of approval. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s a decision we made to better my family.”
Meyer told the team of his decision after they returned to the school from Wednesday night’s overtime win against California in the semifinals of the California Tournament.
“I was watching the locker room celebration after the game, the high of highs, but I knew what was coming after,” said Meyer, who was the head coach at California from 2003-06 before taking the graduate assistant football position at Central Missouri. “It was very difficult to tell them. It’s a great group, there’s no good time to go.”
After winning just three games last season, Jefferson City is 7-7 heading into Saturday’s tournament title game against Boonville.
“The kids have done a great job of battling this season,” Meyer said. “It’s a group that is learning how to win.”
Dan Ridgeway, in his first year as an assistant with the basketball program, will take over as head coach for the remainder of the season.
“I’m excited, it’s a great group of kids to work with,” Ridgeway said. “The No. 1 focus for myself and (assistant coaches) Kay Foster and Ben Hays is to do what’s right for the kids the rest of the season.”
Meyer said the team is in good hands.
“Dan has been a head coach before in multiple sports and I have no qualms about him taking over,” he said. “He’s been fantastic to me as an assistant and I believe along with Kay and Ben, it will be a collaboration that will work well.”
Ridgeway is preparing to start his fifth year as Jefferson City’s head track and field coach.
“We’re just trying to get through practice (Thursday), it will be emotional,” Ridgeway said. “Then (today), it will be working on getting ready for Saturday.”
Ridgeway, who has served as a head basketball coach on the junior varsity level previously in his 25-year coaching career, isn’t thinking about what he might be doing next season in regards to basketball.
“At the end of the season, we’ll have a discussion about that,” he said. “The most important thing right now is whatever we do, it has to be the best for the kids, that’s our only focus right now.”
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