Football will look a little different next year.
For the first time in nearly two decades, Ricebirds Head Coach Wayne Condra won’t be on the sidelines. Condra, with a year left on his contract, will be retiring following the end of the school, marking an end of 18 years as a Ricebird.
“I’ve been in it for 36 years and I’ve spent a lot of time and energy doing what I love to do and that’s coaching. I think it’s time now for me to step back and look at some other things, spend time with my family and enjoy retirement,” Condra.
The thought of retirement wasn’t something that had been tugging at him until recently. Following, the loss to Kilgore, the feeling started to set in that his time coaching was coming to an end, Condra said.
As a head coach in El Campo, Condra had one losing season and won the district championship in three of his six years. The Ricebirds made the third round of the playoffs, twice under his leadership. In his first season, he came one point from beating Silsbee and making the fourth round.
In his time with El Campo, the Ricebirds made the state championship in 2012. He was able to work his son Wes as a player and a coach. El Campo had a turf field installed and added a new press box. They built a new athletic office and locker rooms. Five players signed to play major D1 level football, one making the NFL. Recently, the Ricebirds broke ground on a new weight room.
“When you look back, (I’ll) remember all the special memories I developed with the kids and people in the town. It’s very special to be able to be a part of this and (I got) to see my kids be a part of this as well,” Condra said. “I have several memories. But being a football coach, (what stands out) is the state championship game. Being able to walk into that building and seeing those kids walk through the tunnel with all the work that they put in, that was very special.”
After getting hired in 2003 to be the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach, Condra became the athletic director in 2015. As the head coach in El Campo, Condra led the Ricebirds to a 50-20 record.
In 36 years, Condra coached at four different schools, including 14 years in Victoria at Victoria High and Memorial and four years at his alma mater San Antonio Clark.
“(These) 18 years have been a tremendous opportunity for me and I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Condra said.
Former Ricebird and current Assistant Coach Elliott Babcock, appreciated the atmosphere Condra cultivated.
“As a head coach, he and his wife Jackie always created a family environment with post game dinners and birthday cards for you, your spouse and your children. That really means a lot when you are in a profession where you don’t spend much time with your family during the season,” Babcock said.
Senior middle linebacker Oziel Alanis played the last two seasons for the Ricebirds and was happy to play for Condra.
“Coach Condra was more than just a coach, he was a great mentor, a father figure to each player. I really had high respect for him and learned many things on and off the field from him,” Alanis said. “He was all you wanted in a coach, playing for him was an honor, I believe he was a coach that pushed us to our up most ability.”
Condra is leaving during a time in El Campo where football is on an upward trend.
Despite losing to Kilgore in the second round, the Ricebirds will bring back two of the state’s best running backs along with other key starters at numerous positions along the offense and defense. While he won’t be coming back, whoever is taking over next won’t be left empty-handed.
“Our kids are coming before school, after school to lift weights and doing things during the athletic period to help themselves become better athletes,” Condra said. “I have no doubt when August rolls around the Ricebirds will be primed and ready to go on another run.”
Condra will remain on as the athletic director until the school finds a replacement and he will be with the El Campo ISD through the end of the school year.
“Wayne has been a great and loyal employee for the last 18 years,” El Campo superintendent Bob Callaghan said. “For 12 of thos,e he was the defensive coordinator and the past six he’s been the head coach and it’s always hard to fill that kind of void.”
Callaghan meets with the school board, Tuesday night, a committee will be formed to look for Condra’s replacement.
The job will be posted and remain open for likely four weeks, interview candidates with the goal of having a hire before the end of January.
“(I’ll) be looking for a head coach who’s number one committed to kids. Number two bleeds red and white. (I’ll) be looking for someone who shows strong support for the entire athletic program and have a commitment to excellence.”
Callaghan will bring a recommendation to the school board.