Mater Dei removes Frank McManus as football coach after one season

Frank McManus has been dismissed as head coach of Mater Dei’s football team after one season, the school announced Friday.

McManus coached the Monarchs to CIF Southern Section Division 1 and CIF State Open Division championships in the 2023 season. They went 13-1, with the loss to St. John Bosco in a Trinity League game. Mater Dei beat St. John Bosco in the CIF-SS Division 1 championship game.

He replaced Bruce Rollinson who resigned after the 2022 season, his 34th as head coach at Mater Dei. McManus had been an assistant coach under Rollinson.

Mater Dei’s release did not specify reasons for the school’s decision.

“We are saddened to announce Coach McManus’ departure from Mater Dei High School. We wish him the best in his future endeavors,” said Mater Dei president Michael Brennan.

Randy Wright, coordinator of football operations and marketing, will serve as the interim head coach with support from Khaled Holmes, who will continue in his position as associate head coach.

Brennan said there would be no additional comments from the school.

In December, Brennan praised McManus after the Monarchs’ 35-0 victory against Serra of San Mateo in the state championship game.

“Frank did an outstanding job this year,” Brennan told The Register. “I don’t think we could have asked for anything more from a coach. He grinds it out. He works very long hours, and he really worked hard to continue to help the Mater Dei program become the best version of itself.”

“It was a huge hire,” Brennan added of McManus. “I think we did (get it right). Frank is a very special person and we’re very, very grateful to have him as our head coach, and the relationship he has with the kids is a very special relationship because they know that he loves them. … If they step a little out of line, they know that he’s correcting them because he loves them.”

Mater Dei coach Frank McManus, center, accepts the CIF-SS Division 1 championship plaque at the Coliseum in Los Angeles on Friday, November 24, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)Mater Dei coach Frank McManus, center, accepts the CIF-SS Division 1 championship plaque at the Coliseum in Los Angeles on Friday, November 24, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer) 

The style of McManus, 47, was visibly and audibly different from Rollinson’s.

Rollinson wore a tie at games. A cap facing backwards was often part of McManus’ look on the sidelines.

Rollinson’s postgame comments were measured and slowly delivered. During a TV interview after Mater Dei beat St. John Bosco in the CIF-SS final, McManus yelled “We will lace ‘em up, in the middle of Bristol, and take anyone on,” a reference to Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman that would be crowned as 2023 national champions by

At a 7-on-7 passing tournament Sunday at Beckman High, McManus could be heard swearing at eighth-grade level players on his team.

The football program at Mater Dei, a Diocese of Orange coed high school in Santa Ana, has attracted notoriety beyond its consistent on-field success.

A 2021 locker room incident, a fight between two of the football program’s players in which one of the players suffered what was described as a brain injury, led to a since-settled lawsuit that accused Mater Dei and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, with which Mater Dei is affiliated, of attempting to cover up the incident.

Brennan was hired as Mater Dei president in January of 2022, replacing Fr. Walter Jenkins. Changing the culture course of Mater Dei athletics was part of his assignment.

One of Brennan’s earlier moves at Mater Dei was to install Joel Hartmann in the newly-created position of executive director of athletics. Hartmann had worked in the athletic department at Servite when Brennan was Servite principal.

Jenkins was Mater Dei president for six months. Before Jenkins left, he hired a Sacramento law firm to examine Mater Dei’s safety protocols and its athletics program. The results of that assessment have not been made public.

Staff writer Dan Albano contributed to the report.

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