Tim McDonald has resigned as football coach at Edison High, where he starred as a player and, last fall, led the Tigers to the Central Section Division II championship.
A USC All-American and six-time NFL Pro Bowler as a player, McDonald scheduled high-caliber opposition while going 58-24-2 in seven years with the Tigers, including 10-4 last season. He also had 25 players sign major-college scholarships, including 12 with the Pac-10 Conference.
He's completing a communications degree at USC and can't say whether he's walking away permanently from a game that has consumed most of his 45 years.
"Never say never," he said. "What level? I don't know. I'm not sure I'll ever completely leave the game, but I'm definitely closing the door on this chapter and moving on."
A key consideration was his education, which was interrupted after 31/2 years at USC. In spring 1987, he stopped in favor of preparing for the NFL draft.
The safety was selected in the second round, No. 34 overall, by the then-St. Louis Cardinals. That launched a 13-year NFL career that finished with seven seasons with San Francisco, the last in 1999.
With income and pension drawn from that career, and ongoing success as owner of the World Sports Cafe in River Park, earning the college degree is more about principle than profit.
"I'm committed," he said. "It's something that's been sitting on me for a while and I just want to make sure to get that finished.
"I've stressed to my kids and other kids how important it is to go to college and get a degree. Problem is, I haven't had a chance to complete my end of the deal. My degree from Southern Cal is not sitting on my desk, and I'm not getting any younger. This is the perfect time to step away and get it done."
A large part of that timing is the fact he's finished coaching his sons -- T.J., who followed his footsteps to USC, and Tevin, a multiple position player and Bee All-Star, who completed his high school career in the fall. He'll attend UCLA. A daughter, Taryn, is a sophomore at Clovis West.
"I had a feeling Tim might go after [Tevin] was done," said coach Chuck Shidan of rival Sanger. "That's a tough job, and it doesn't surprise me he's going out a winner, which is good. I thought his teams always played hard and with class and discipline."
McDonald's replacement process, according to Fresno Unified athletic director Doug Semmen, will follow district policy that calls for on-campus candidates to be considered first, then intradistrict candidates and, if necessary, out-of-district candidates. The same protocol has been followed at fellow district member Sunnyside, whose search to replace football coach Shannon Pulliam is ongoing.
McDonald, 45, said he's been taking a combination of classes via the Internet and junior college, but that his final five upper-division courses require his presence on campus at USC.
Much like his predecessor, Ray Reyes, McDonald departs Edison on a high, but not without controversy.
Reyes checked out after capturing the school's first section title in 27 years, in 2002. But it was also that season in which the Tigers forfeited four regular-season wins after using an ineligible player.
Edison's championship this season -- closed with a 23-7 win over Frontier -- was its first since then. And this year's title followed a dreadful 2008 season that began with the Tigers top-ranked in the section, No. 10 in the state and No. 27 nationally, but will be remembered for a grade-changing scandal involving a star player with excessive absences.
A two-month Fresno Unified investigation implicated a teacher, not McDonald, but the coach suffered.
"Tim has been scarred," Matt Johnson, McDonald's former USC teammate, business partner and assistant coach, said at the time. "This took a lot out of him, no two ways about it. This was sickening."
Today, McDonald says: "It was painful, I won't deny that. To me, it's all part of the process of learning and teaching, and overcoming the pitfalls that come with it.
"Yes, we took some hits but, in our eyes, we did things the right way in building the program. We moved on and, one of the things I'm most proud of, our kids showed resilience last season and had the highest combined GPA during my time, and probably a long ways back."
He said that of his 33-man roster, 16 players posted a GPA of 3.0 or better, including nine with at least a 3.5, last semester.
"That was pretty special," he said. "This was a tough job -- a tough one. But I was very happy to do it. Now it's time for me to prioritize, and in a different fashion. Leaving is one of the hardest things I've had to do."