Cleveland High football head coach Heath Ridenour has resigned from the state’s most powerhouse program to join the staff at the University of New Mexico, the Journal learned.
UNM has not formally announced any staff hirings on the football staff, and Lobos head coach Danny Gonzales would not comment on Tuesday’s report.
Ridenour likewise could not be reached for comment late Tuesday, but he told Cleveland players he is leaving for UNM, the Journal learned.
Ridenour has guided the Storm to three state titles, the most recent coming last Nov. 27 with a 35-14 victory over rival Rio Rancho in the Class 6A final. The other two championship years were 2015 and 2019. Ridenour, himself a former quarterback at Lovington High and Eastern New Mexico, took over the Storm in 2012 and compiled a gaudy 96-18 record (84.2 winning percentage) in his 10 seasons. The Storm won at least 10 games in seven of his 10 seasons, and Cleveland did not have a losing season under Ridenour.
Ridenour was the offensive coordinator for Cleveland in its 2011 championship season before he was promoted to replace the retiring Kirk Potter. Ridenour spent five seasons on Eric Roanhaus’ coaching staff at Clovis High before joining Cleveland prior to the 2010 season.
Gonzales had said earlier the Lobos “won’t skip a beat,” after the recent departures of assistants Drew Mehringer and Jordan Somerville to Oregon.
Gonzales, who just finished his second season as UNM head coach, had already brought on one local high school coach. His brother-in-law, then-Rancho coach David Howes, was hired when Gonzales was assembling his staff after being hired in December of 2019. Howes then told Rio Rancho players he was leaving the Rams before UNM made it official.
Somerville, 25, who was the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at UNM, is leaving to become a quarterbacks analyst with the Ducks.
Gonzales said a national search would be conducted for the vacant spots that Somerville and Mehringer held and the Lobos will “continue to move forward.”
Somerville was instrumental in the Lobos’ strong presence on social media with regard to recruiting.
Mehringer was the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator at UNM. He was officially announced on Tuesday as the tight ends coach at Oregon under new head coach Dan Lanning.
“Jordan is moving on to something he thinks is a good situation for him; I’m thankful for what he did,” Gonzales said earlier Tuesday. “He did a lot of great work for me at Arizona State when I was the defensive coordinator and he was my graduate assistant there. He’s a good football coach. He does a good job in recruiting. But that doesn’t change anything from our movement plan. The direction of recruiting comes from the top. So nothing will change on that. Jordan is a hard worker, just like all of the coaches on our staff are hard workers. So we won’t skip a beat. I’m grateful for what he did for our program. He works hard. When you do that, you get opportunities.”
Somerville could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. He is familiar with Oregon’s new offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham as both were volunteer assistant coaches at Arizona State while Somerville was a student at ASU, Gonzales said. Somerville and Dillingham also coached together in the high school ranks in Arizona.
UNM struggled on offense during the Lobos’ 3-9 season with injuries to quarterbacks Terry Wilson (elbow) and Isaiah Chavez (ankle). UNM finished last in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total offense, averaging 234.9 yards per game. The Lobos were 127th out of 130 FBS teams in passing offense with 114.1 passing yards per game, and 108th in rushing at 120.8 yards per game.
“It’s hard for people to see a 3-9 football team going in the right direction,” Gonzales said. “The results on the field are disappointing. The results on the scoreboard are disappointing. People find it hard to see progress. But we’ve made a lot of strides towards being a better football team and we will continue to do that. … Obviously, people in the industry that deal with it every day recognize things what we’ve done around here and that we are going in that direction.”
From when Gonzales was hired in December of 2019, he said continuity on his coaching staff would be important. Gonzales said that is especially the case with the quarterbacks coach. The Lobos’ next quarterbacks coach will be the third new assistant in that position in as many years under Gonzales.
“On our next hire one of the major ideas for it will be to get continuity in that room because I think that’s the most important position on your team,” Gonzales said. “When your leadership comes from the quarterback, you have a chance to be better, so you need some continuity and consistency out of that position.”
The recent coaching changes on the UNM offensive staff won’t affect the expectation that the Lobos will bring in a transfer quarterback later this month, Gonzales said.