Change has come in bunches the last few days for the Rochester Mayo athletic coaching staff.

Three head varsity coaches have announced that they are stepping away — Brett Carroll (girls and boys cross country), Ryan Carpenter (girls basketball) and Neil Cassidy (boys soccer).

While Cassidy’s departure is just an interim switch, Carroll’s and Carpenter’s moves are considered permanent.

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Cassidy to take over as Mayo boys soccer coach

There is already a replacement for Cassidy, longtime Rochester youth and Rochester Lourdes lower-levels boys soccer coach Tim Jennings. No announcement has yet been made of replacements for Carroll and Carpenter.

Long-time investment by Carroll

Carroll had been the Mayo girls head cross country coach the last 17 years and its boys head coach the last 16.

It wasn’t just one thing that led him to step down now. But having more time for his family and his primary job as a John Adams Middle School physical education teacher were at the top of his list.

Carroll is the father of four children, the oldest in middle school.

“As a coach, you just put so much time and effort into it,” said Carroll, 41. “Family is definitely one of the reasons I’m stepping down. When you are a coach, it is always on your brain. And it’s not just about the sport, but the relationships. Like, how can you get a certain (athlete) more help in any particular facet of their life.”

Another factor, he admitted, was parental pressure he received over the years. Even in cross country, where playing time is not an issue, there were issues.

While Carroll said it was just a tiny fraction of parents who gave him problems, it was still enough to wear him out.

“The joyful part of coaching is working with kids and seeing them increase in their skill and love for the sport; that never gets old,” Carroll said. “Increasingly it has been challenging working with some parents. There aren’t very many of them, but they won’t stop criticizing or micromanaging or being angry if they don’t get what they want. Over time that gets exhausting, and is a common factor for many coaches stepping away.”

Carroll accomplished lots in his years as Mayo’s cross country coach. That includes him three times each being named the Big Nine Conference boys Coach of the Year, and three times its girls Coach of the Year. He also had 29 runners participate in the state meet and 30 who went on to compete at the college level in cross country.

Mayo head coach Ryan Carpenter yells from the sidelines during a Section 1AAAA championship game on March 6, 2020, at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Mayo head coach Ryan Carpenter yells from the sidelines during a Section 1AAAA championship game on March 6, 2020, at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

Carpenter gets college job

It had forever been Carpenter’s dream to coach basketball at the college level. Now, the 36-year-old will live that out, having accepted a full-time assistant job with the University of Jamestown (N.D.) women’s program.

Jamestown is an NAIA school that plays in the top NAIA women’s basketball league in the country, the Great Plains Athletic Conference. The GPAC has produced NAIA’s women’s basketball champion 14 of the past 20 years. Jamestown, a perennial power, finished 15-11 this past season.

“It had always been my goal to be a college coach and one of the things I did at the end of every season was to apply for college jobs and gauge what might be a good fit for me,” said Carpenter, who in three seasons with Mayo went 55-18, advanced his team to the Section 1AAAA championship game the past two years and won the Big Nine Conference title this season.

“This had been my dream since college, to be a full-time college coach,” Carpenter said. “This was the next logical step for me and any time you’re presented with an opportunity like this, you have to chase it.”

Carpenter has worked as a physical education teacher the last nine years, his last stop at Lincoln At Mann Elementary School.

Carpenter says it was not easy to step away as Mayo’s head girls coach.

“It’s always a tough decision when you’ve developed relationships with people,” he said. “And when you then get a flood of people saying they are going to miss you, it makes it even harder and more challenging. But at the same time it is rewarding because you know then that you’ve done it the right way and have impacted kids’ lives.”

Neil Cassidy is expected to take a one-year leave as the Mayo boys soccer coach. (Post Bulletin file photo)
Neil Cassidy is expected to take a one-year leave as the Mayo boys soccer coach. (Post Bulletin file photo)

Jennings a one-year replacement

It’s likely just a one-year deal, but the Mayo boys soccer team will have a new varsity coach, Jennings.

Jennings is the interim replacement for Cassidy, who is stepping away for family reasons. Cassidy was the team’s first-year coach last year, having taken over for longtime Mayo coach Charles Abboud.

Jennings is widely known in the soccer community. He coached youth soccer teams the past 22 years in Rochester. He’d also been a C-squad or junior varsity coach in the Lourdes boys program the previous eight years, as well as has been an assistant coach for the minor-league Med City FC men’s team.

In taking over for Cassidy — who’s also the Med City FC head coach — he is stepping in for a friend.

“When Neil contacted me about it, I really wanted to help out a friend (Cassidy) who was taking a leave of absence and someone I’ve known for a long time,” Jennings said.

Jennings, who has the second highest level of soccer license attainable in Minnesota, the U.S. Soccer Federation B License, is excited to get going with this Mayo program. He’s doing it with the blessing of Lourdes head coach Sean Kane, who Jennings said encouraged him to help out Cassidy at this time.

“I’m really looking forward to this,” Jenning said. “I’m excited to work in a program that has had such a long and storied history. And I’m excited to work with these kids, a lot of whom I coached as kids in travel soccer.”

Mayo finished 8-4-1 last year, including going 7-1-1 in its last nine games.