When Bill Redell decided to retire after 12 years of building the Oaks Christian School football program from scratch to one of the nation’s best, he was pretty sure his coaching career was over.
Then suddenly, he was offered the chance to become the head football coach at his alma mater, .
“This came out of the clear blue sky,” Redell, 71, said of the opportunity, shortly after Oxy announced Friday that he would replace Dale Widolff, who was fired earlier this month for allegedly violating National College Athletic Association recruiting rules.
“When I retired at Oaks Christian, that was it—I had no intention of coaching football again,” said Redell. “I hadn’t even thought about it, but the only job I might have been interested in would have been Occidental.”
Redell, who had already won a CIF-Southern Section championship as head coach at Crespi High School in Encino, CA, went on to win seven more at Oaks Christian, where he was the school’s first and only head football coach until he resigned from the job two months ago. Oaks Christian opened in 2000.
Redell amassed a career record of 233-65-3 as a high school head coach. Oaks Christian appeared in a record nine consecutive CIF title games from 2003-2011.
Praise for Widolff
Redell, who will commute 40 miles from his home in Westlake Village to the Occidental campus in Eagle Rock, said he has only respect for the man he is replacing as the Tigers’ head coach, Dale Widolff.
“Dale’s a friend—he did a heck of a job at Occidental,” Redell said. “I don’t know all the ramifications of why they let him go, but I would like to say that he did a fabulous job and he’s a good guy and after (30) years he’s got a great following—and he should have a great following.”
“I knew there were some NCAA infractions, supposedly,” Redell said. “I knew he’d had a four- or five-game suspension the year before, for maybe some recruiting violation. And then something else had happened.”
Widolff won 178 games and 11 SCIAC titles while at Occidental. Last year the Tigers were 5-4 and came in third place in the conference.
In August 2010, Widolff was suspended for six weeks without pay after Occidental College found that he had allegedly violated NCAA rules and college policies.
The Controversy Over Widolff’s Firing
Asked about the fallout after Widolff’s dismissal, Redell said he understands and appreciates the support Widolff has received, which has included a petition for his honorable retirement by former players and Occidental graduates. The petitioners have vowed to stop all financial contributions to the college because they believe Widolff’s firing was not properly handled.
Redell said he’s known Widolff since the early 1980s and has a good rapport him. The two are “not close friends,” he added, but rather “coaching acquaintances.” At times, he had encouraged high school players to play at Occidental under Widolff, Redell said.
“If you’ve been some place  years, you build up some loyalties to you,” said Redell. “He’s very well thought of, very well-respected by everybody who has been there.”
In light of the claims by many of Widolff’s supporters that firing him was too harsh a penalty for his alleged violation of NCAA rules, Patch asked Redell if he thought the punishment was the result of consecutive years of infractions.
“Maybe,” he replied, referring to the infractions over a period of two successive years and the fact that Oxy was already on probation. “I don’t know the whole story in regards to that,” he added. “But Dale Widolff is not a guy who’s going to do something that he shouldn’t.”
However, said Redell, “he may have made an error or something.”
Redell’s Oxy Opportunity
Redell was trying to adjust to life as a retired high school coaching legend when his college roommate called and let him know the Occidental job had opened. The friend asked Redell if he’d be interested in the job.
That set the wheels in motion. Redell said he got a call from Occidental Athletic Director Jaime Hoffman shortly thereafter.
Still, Redell said he thought he would be asked to be a consultant to help the school find a new coach.
The discussions quickly began to center on whether Redell would like to become the head coach. After a series of discussions on the phone and in person with the Occidental athletic department—and then with the football coaching staff—he accepted the job.
“My mother went to Occidental College,” Redell said. “I went to Occidental College. They’re in a position now where they need a head football coach. I was available and I want to help my university out. And I plan on being there four or five years.”
Redell seems clearly eager to avoid any misperception or misunderstanding that he somehow took advantage of Widolff’s downfall.
“All I know is that my college that I went to came to me and asked if I would help,” he said. “And I’m trying to help my college out—that’s basically it.”
As a student, Redell transferred to Occidental from USC after the Trojan coaching staff wanted to move him from his quarterback position. He became one of the Tigers' all-time greats and is a member of the college football Hall of Fame as a player.
He played briefly in the NFL and for several years in the CFL. He led the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to a Grey Cup Title in 1967.
Redell said he looks forward to working wth top-notch student-athletes at Oxy.
"Occidental is a very fine academic institution certainly on par with Ivy League schools," he said. "Quite franky, I think they have the whole idea of college education in the right priority—people go to Occidental College to get an education first."
Tomorrow in Part II: Bill Redell’s decision to leave Oaks Christian High School and his life of football and faith.