Shake-up: Chenoweth named AD at SBHS; football coaches Melgoza, Uyesaka resign

The spring season has brought change to the high school athletic scene in Santa Barbara.

On Monday, two high school football coaches stepped down and Santa Barbara High announced the hiring of a new athletic director.

Jaime Melgoza resigned after three seasons at Santa Barbara and Jeff Uyesaka is leaving the helm at Dos Pueblos after nine years as a head coach.

Meanwhile, Joe Chenoweth, a former director of youth and adult sports for the City of Santa Barbara, was named athletic director at Santa Barbara High. He replaces Nan Verkaik, who was reassigned to a teaching position. She was AD for eight years.

“Joe brings some management experiene to the table,” SBHS Principal John Becchio said. “He’s spent his life in athletics and managed the city parks and rec program and had some great experience there with budgets and managing employees, managing facilities, which is all something we’re going to need him to do here.”

“It’s at tremendous thrill,” Chenoweth said of the job. “Santa Barbara has a tremendous amount of tradition.”

Chenoweth already has a big assignment to tackle: hiring a new football coach.

Melgoza cited family reasons for his decision to step down. He worked tirelessly to restore the winning tradition of Dons football.

The outlook is positive for a big 2012 season as the team returns several talented players, including
receiver Emilio Gonzalez, running back Cheroke Cunningham, quarterback Shawn Ramos and linebacker Jason Jimenez.

“This was my dream team but sometimes you need to make decisions in life,” he said in an email.

He called his time coaching at his alma mater and “unbelievable experience.”

Asked What advice he would you give to the next coach, Melgoza said, “Working hard will pay off.”

A Santa Barbara alum who owns a construction business, Melgoza was a walk-on coach. He took the job three years ago.

Doug Caines, an assistant coach who works on campus, has been named the interim coach.

Uyesaka also stepped down for family reasons.

“It comes as a shock, but I also know the rigors and the life of what it means to be a head football coach,” Dos Pueblos Athletic Director Dan Feldhaus said. “It’s a tough life; it’s big job, thankless. You got to have a lot of energy and be dedicated, and Jeff was all those things, but eventually he just needed a little break.

“It was a family decision.”

Uyesaka has four children, including two who attend DP.

Feldhaus added: “It was a hard decision for him to leave coaching. He’s given his heart and school to this school and this program.”

Uyesaka, a DP alum, did two stints as head coach for the Chargers. He just completed a seven-year run, following Armando Gonzalez. Before that, he replaced Jeff Hesselmeyer and coached for two seasons.

His team won the Channel League championship in 2010, the school’s first title since 1979. The Chargers also won the City Championship in 2010 and 2011. He made the playoffs four times, including the last two seasons.

Feldhaus said the job first will be offered to any qualified member of the football staff. The next step will be posting the job through the district before opening it up to applicants outside the district.

Feldhaus hopes to have the position filled by the middle or end of May.

Monday’s resignations means all three city schools are in need of football coaches. San Marcos is looking for a full-time, on-campus coach. Dale Perizzolo filled the position on an interim basis after the death of Jeff Hesselmeyer last July.

Chenoweth comes to Santa Barbara from Notre Dame School, where he worked as the business manager and a physical education teacher.

He grew up in Santa Barbara, graduated from Bishop Diego in 1990 and attended the University of Nebraska. He returned to town after college and worked at the City Parks and Recreation program.

“He’s got deep, deep community connections and experience managing programs, in particular athletic programs,” said Becchio. “This is a pretty big one and it’s a very visable position. He’s a great people person and he’s outgoing. He’s going to build a lot good positive relationships here.”

Even though he’s not a Santa Barbara High alum, Chenoweth said he considers himself a Don because his wife went there.

“I became a Don the day I married my wife,” he said.

He looks forward to the challenge of being in charge of athletics at a school steeped in tradition.

“This is a once in a lifetime job and I do not take it lightly.”