Ron Caragher was recently hired at the new Head Football Coach at San Jose State University. His wife, Wendy, was a popular tennis instructor here in Coronado. With their three boys in tow, they are making the move to Northern California, though they both told me, “we’ll be back.”
1990: Ron finishes his eligibility at UCLA as a quarterback and takes a job in Pension Administration.
1994: Ron takes a Graduate Assistant job at UCLA, working with the football team.
1996: Ron’s Graduate Assistant job becomes a full time position.
2002: Caragher’s move to Kentucky where Ron is running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Kentucky.
2006-2012: Ron is Head Football Coach at University of San Diego.
2012: Ron is hired by San Jose State as their new Head Football Coach.
2013: Many Coronado residents say a heartfelt and emotional farewell to the Caragher Family.
There are definite benefits to writing for eCoronado.com. When I joined the team here my main goal was to step outside my comfort zone, meeting and interviewing people I may never meet otherwise. Who knew that I would find myself, a USC Trojan, in the house of not just one, but two UCLA Bruins? Who could have predicted that they would be (I mean, really, Bruins?) two of the most friendly, welcoming people I have ever met here? (I hope you can sense the sarcastic, playful tone.)
It makes me melancholy to report that I met Ron and Wendy Caragher to do a farewell interview. That’s just what it is, though, farewell. Not goodbye. Not forever. Not permanent, but farewell until we meet again. Coaching families, much like military families, tend to move quite a bit. Coach follows the job and mom packs up the house, the pets, the children and follows dad. It’s just the way it is. Many a coach or military member will tell you that it’s the spouse who holds it all together. Ron Caragher says the same about his beautiful wife Wendy.
Ron and Wendy met while attending UCLA. Ron was on the football team and Wendy competed as a member of the tennis team. When they graduated, they were engaged to be married. Then head football coach at UCLA, Terry Donahue, offered Ron a Graduate Assistant spot with the team. Ron felt the pressure of an approaching wedding, however, and decided to take a job he knew could support a family, but Coach Donahue’s offer “planted a seed.”
After a couple years working in Pension Administration, Ron and Wendy sat down and had a heart to heart about the future. Ron didn’t love his job; he had no passion for it. So, in 1994 he returned to UCLA as a Graduate Assistant (GA). The GA became a full time job in 1996 and Ron coached football for the Bruins until 2002, when the head coach was fired and the assistants as well.
The Caraghers made the move to Kentucky and the SEC in 2002. Ron says, “It was an eye opener being in Kentucky with the SEC, as football is part of the culture.” One of Wendy’s favorite things to say is “I cried when I got there, but cried when I left”. Kentucky was culture shock for Ventura, California born Wendy. She made so many friends while they were there, however, that it was difficult to leave. After four years of Ron coaching in a program that went from “down and out”, not having played in a bowl game since the mid 1980’s, to winning their bowl game over Clemson in 2006, it was time for another relocation.
Jim Harbaugh’s move from the University of San Diego (USD) to Stanford presented an opportunity for Ron to fulfill a dream. He always wanted to be a head coach and move back to the west coast (He was born and raised in the San Jose area.) The Caraghers lived in a couple places in San Diego before they landed in Coronado some eighteen months ago. They discovered Coronado and its charm through Ron’s work as the head football coach at USD. One year Ron took the team to the USS Ronald Reagan where they did a workout on the flight deck and ate with Sailors on the mess deck. Another year, Ron brought the USD football team to NAB where, after a presentation by the SEALS, the team (and some of the coaches) did the obstacle course and other “exercises”. Ron says that experience was “the toughest workout I may have ever had in my life!” After talking with people they knew and spending a weekend riding bikes around the island, Ron and Wendy made the move here, to Coronado. They both told me that if they had to do it all over again, they would move straight to Coronado.
It was here, on our beloved island, that Wendy Caragher found her niche. When they lived at USD and in Point Loma, she was driving all over the San Diego area to teach tennis. As a devoted wife and mother, Wendy shared that she “never really had a career, being a wife and mother. Here in Coronado I found a place to share my gift. I have made friends and created bonds.” The timing was perfect for Wendy to teach tennis here. Sue Hites had just been hired as the tennis director and the USTA (United States Tennis Association) created a new program for teaching younger children the sport. Wendy started teaching junior tennis classes for 3-5 year olds and children ten and under. “The best part (of teaching tennis) was getting to know the community. I was always excited to see who would show up in my clinics,” Wendy said. She also shared that it was wonderful getting to know not only the children taking tennis, but their families as well. The tennis job helped Wendy dive into the community.
The Caragher boys have truly enjoyed the Coronado schools (Josh is a 10th grader, Ryan an 8th grader and Scott a 7th grader.) They were involved in everything from water polo to tennis to lacrosse and football. Scott has asked his mom several times, when discussing their move to San Jose, “How could you take me away from the most perfect place in the world?” Both Ron and Wendy said they love the town, the people, and the community. They love attending Coronado events like parades for July 4th, Christmas and the CHS Homecoming. Wendy says, “The kindness people have here .people open their hearts, they are friendly, they care. It’s just powerful.” Ron teases that he is now “the most disliked man in Coronado” because he is taking Wendy away, but Wendy says she knows that as Ron is stepping into his new role as the Head Coach of San Jose State, “something great will happen for me there too!”
Son Ryan said that it will be hard to move. “I was surprised dad got the job because it seemed like we were going to be at USD for a while.” The silver lining, though, is that the family will be closer to relatives and all three boys will be attending the same high school, Bellarmine College Preparatory, that their dad attended. Another silver lining is the opportunity to see Coronado friends when San Jose State plays SDSU in football. San Jose State is moving to the Mountain West Conference and SDSU is coming back to the same conference. “We’ll be playing here every other year, “explained Ron.
Wendy told me that her very favorite thing about Coronado is “it’s a magical place. Everyone at some point knows they are entering a special place. To have had the opportunity to live here and send our kids to great schools, be able to teach tennis on the island with great people I felt like the luckiest person in the world.” The entire family has made some life-long friends. Saying farewell is difficult, but Ron believes that “we grow the most when we are challenged.” Wendy says “there is a divine plan for our family. I know there will be an abundance of blessings in San Jose.” The Caraghers have already felt the warmth from friends Ron knew as a boy. The community has been really welcoming.
As they say in the Navy, “Fair winds and following seas Caragher family, until we meet again!”
P.S. Ron and Wendy were in the midst of moving when they invited me into their home for our interview. Ron was here, briefly (He has been in San Jose since December setting up his new staff and getting acclimated to his new environment.) to see his family and tend to some appointments. It would have been so easy for them to say they didn’t have time. Instead, we spent an hour together talking about what a positive experience living in Coronado has been for their family. If ever you are having a bad day, remember that there are so many wonderful things this little island has to offer people find those gems every day, even if they are only here for a short period. In finding the special things the island has to offer, they leave behind a little of themselves and we are all better for it.
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