Despite leading the Tempe High football team to its first playoff appearance since 2001 and posting a better record in each successive season with the Buffaloes, John Rodriguez has been fired as coach.
Rodriguez said Monday night he was informed of the decision Friday by principal Mark Yslas.
"He said we're going to go in a different direction," said Rodriguez, who took over a struggling Tempe program in 2006. "I said, 'Why is that?' He said, 'I just don't think you love Tempe High. I don't think you love our kids.'"
Rodriguez said that answer stunned him and added that while he has considered other coaching jobs in the past, he was 100 percent committed to Tempe after leading the team to a 5-6 record and the first round of the 4A-II state playoffs.
"When Mark called me into his office, I was going in anticipating him asking me, 'What are your thoughts?' because I was going to say, 'I want to stay at Tempe. I want to continue building.'"
Instead Rodriguez, who will continue to teach weight training and physical education classes at Tempe for the remainder of the school year, is looking to start building elsewhere. He said he plans to apply for the openings at Phoenix Sandra Day O'Connor and Mesa Dobson.
A message left for a school official late Monday wasn't immediately returned.
The Buffaloes went 1-9 in Rodriguez's first year but improved to 4-6 in '07. They finished this past regular season 5-5 and earned the No. 12 seed for the playoffs, where they lost to state semifinalist Phoenix Greenway, 35-13, in the opening round.