Friendship to Frenship: Football coaches share decades-long bond

Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 9:56 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - From football, to friendship, to family. As the school year starts back up, so does Texas high school football. With practices underway, a few Frenship coaches are gearing up for their fifth season together. But, they’ve known each other much longer than that.

“Well it began at West Texas State University, 20 some years ago, 25 years ago,” Defensive Coordinator Mark Ribaudo said.

A decades long brotherhood began in canyon in the 1990s. Ribaudo was coaching the Buffs, when Erik Kirkpatrick and Caleb Holt took the field. WT sent a letter to every senior in Texas, a Hail Mary to recruit walk-ons. That’s when Jay Northcutt called.

“So, he drives all the way down to Canyon and we met at the McDonald’s in Canyon. And he gave me a video tape, back in that day. And I watched it and I said, if this kid’s coming all the way down here with this tape, I’m letting him walk on,” Ribaudo said.

“You know, what’s ironic about it is just after all these years, some of my closest friends have come from being there at West Texas at that time,” NorthCutt said.

The three players became college roommates and after graduation went their separate ways. All four ended up in education and stayed in touch with each other through recruiting. Then four years ago, Northcutt became the head coach at Frenship, with a chance to bring the crew back together on the gridiron.

“That’s the best recruiting job I ever did, was Jay Northcutt. And I’ve recruited a lot of guys, but I let him on that football team and so he brought me here to the greatest job in the state of Texas. I’ve got the greatest job right now and I’m very thankful. And to coach with those guys is just the icing on the cake,” Ribaudo said.

It’s now their fifth season on the field together, the first without Kirkpatrick. He’s an assistant principal at Frenship High, still supporting his fellow Tigers. Holt is the Offensive Coordinator. Northcutt says Coach Rib, as they call him, has always been at the center of the huddle.

“Just like our kids that graduate from here come back, and they come back just to see him, and same with us there at West Texas. And so, to have him come be a part of our staff has just been a big blessing for us,” Northcutt said.

“I can’t wait to get up every day and get here and work with them. And they are some of the most loyal men I’ve ever met in my life,” Ribaudo said. “They are so loyal, especially to me. And I don’t deserve it, but I get it.”

Coach Ribaudo says he’ll be on the field until he wins his former players enough gold footballs for them to say they’re done. The Frenship Tigers’ first home game is against Coronado on Aug. 27.

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