Josh Line went 55-19 in seven seasons at Sheldon, including 6A runner-up finishes in 2018 and 2022. (Photo by Jon Olson)
Josh Line went 55-19 in seven seasons at Sheldon, including 6A runner-up finishes in 2018 and 2022. (Photo by Jon Olson)

When Josh Line stepped down as Sheldon's football coach in December, he said he was “definitely not” leaving coaching for good.

He just wanted to spend next fall watching his daughter, Bailee, play her senior volleyball season with the Irish.

As it has turned out, Line will return to the sideline sooner than expected. He has accepted the head coaching job at nearby Willamette, replacing Kevin Leonard, who resigned after an 0-9 season last year.

“This all started because they were willing to work with me on next season, give me a chance to have a fun senior year with my daughter,” Line said. “I've been able to do that with all my other kids. I've been able to be in the seats, be a dad.”

Line went 55-19 in seven seasons at Sheldon, leading the Irish to 6A runner-up finishes in 2018 and 2022. He also went 23-15 as the coach at Marshfield from 2013 to 2016.

Line said he has been intrigued by the opportunity to coach at Willamette considering it is the only high school in the Bethel School District, unlike Sheldon, which is among four high school programs in Eugene School District 4J.

Leonard resigned as Willamette's coach in December, around the same time Line stepped down at Sheldon. Line said he was approached by people to gauge his interest in the Willamette job and it piqued his curiosity.

“At the time I was thinking, 'Maybe that could be a place I could finish my career and maybe see if we could help that community get things going,'” Line said. “My initial thought was, 'That's an interesting idea. In a year I'll take a look at that.'”

Willamette's willingness to accommodate Line's schedule between football and volleyball this fall was a key factor in him agreeing to take the job.

“I'm a man of faith, and I prayed about it, and I felt drawn in this direction,” Line said. “That community needs a coach, and I've still got energy to coach. And if they were willing to work with me next year, I just kind of felt compelled to move in that direction.”

Willamette's sports teams moved from 5A to 6A in the 2022-23 school year, but football remained in 5A. Leonard was the coach the last three seasons, going 2-7, 3-6 and 0-9, the Wolverines' first winless record since 1979.

Willamette athletic director Bill Wagner is hopeful that Line will energize the Wolverines, who haven't made the state playoffs since 2015.

“We kind of needed a spark, and I think Josh can provide that spark for us,” Wagner said. “There's some untapped potential here. I think Josh is going to leave no stone unturned as far getting kids out and involved. Kind of bringing us back to where we once were.”

Developing the program's infrastructure is critical, said Wagner, who is in his second year as athletic director.

“We're going to make a commitment to making sure we're building this program from the bottom up,” Wagner said. “That's investing in our youth program as well as our high school program

“We need to make sure that kids who belong to our Bethel community, stay in our Bethel community and are developed in the Bethel community, and grow up wanting to be Wolverines. That this is the destination, and not just an option.”

Line acknowledged that Willamette is a “completely different situation” than when he took over at Sheldon, one of the state's elite programs for the past two decades.

“I get that,” he said. “But coaching is coaching. I'm either going to get things going there, or I'll be added to a long list of guys that struggled to get things going there. I think it'll be a fun opportunity for me. It'll be interesting to see what we can get accomplished there, see if we can turn the tide.”

Line hinted that he will be adding some high-profile assistant coaches to the staff. He said they are former teammates from his playing days at Oregon, but could not divulge their names until the hirings are official.

“I've got some old buddies that I've always wanted to work with, and the timing was never right,” Line said. “Friends of mine that I've known for a long time that are fired up to work with me, and I'm fired up about working with them.”