RIVER FALLS, Wis.-- Nothing could prepare Rollie Hall for his first day on the job as River Falls activities director in 2003.
“I came in and sat at my desk thinking I have this nice new job and a promotion in my career,” he recalled. “And then about an hour later somebody came in and said, ‘hey, we need porta potties out on the field.’ I had just finished my masters program and spent over $10,000 and not one of those classes told me how to order a porta potty. So it brought me back down to earth pretty quick.”
Hall said a lot has changed over the past 18 years, although ordering porta-potties has remained a constant. He said he’s not a young man anymore, and believes the activities director position at River Falls requires a young person’s energy. That’s why he informed the school district over the winter that he was planning to retire at the end of the current school year.
“When you hit 50 you start thinking about it, but probably the last two years I really started looking at it,” the soon-to-be 60 year-old said. “It takes a lot of energy, and while it's been a good ride both for myself and for the school I think it’s time to taper off.”
It didn’t take long for the school district to hire Hall’s replacement, announcing March 4 that David Crail, a social studies teacher and Wildcat head football coach the past four years, will take over the position effective July 1.
“Through an extensive process involving separate selection and interview committees along with 50 applicants both regionally and nationally, Mr. Crail has rightfully earned this position,” the March 4 statement from the district read. “His proven abilities with leadership, instruction, communication, and organizational skills will contribute to his success as AD. His commitment to our school district, our students, and support for all co-curricular activities is evidenced by his passion to personally inspire students and colleagues both in and out of the classroom.”
Before coming to River Falls in 2017 Crail, a Kalispell, Mont., native, spent the previous 12 years coaching at Northwestern High School in Maple, the last two as head coach where he guided the Tigers to a record of 15-6, two Heart of the North Conference titles and two straight playoff appearances. He was also the head baseball coach at Northwestern.
After taking over the River Falls football program in 2017 Crail guided the Wildcats to back-to-back Big Rivers Conference titles in 2018-19, the first conference titles for the Cats since 1995, before the 2020 season was limited to just three games due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Crail said the decision to step down as head football coach was a difficult one.
“Yeah it was incredibly hard,” he said. “And if I'm being completely honest there's aspects of it, when August rolls around that probably will continue to be difficult. But I never got into coaching for the wins and losses. I truly feel that I really got into coaching for the right reasons. And that was to try to impact kids at a really high level, give them a really good experience in trying to build something bigger than what people see on Friday nights. And when I weighed that aspect with the potential of this role; this role allows me to do all of those things, just at a significantly greater level. And that part appealed to me.”
Another aspect that appealed to him was being here for the long haul. He earned his master’s degree six years ago with the goal of some day pursuing a position in administration but said there was no real timeline. But after Hall announced he was retiring, Crail discussed the matter with his wife Bethany and decided the time was right.
“I truly felt that whoever was going to be fortunate enough to get this role was going to be here for a really long time,” he said. “And with that in mind, and wanting to keep our family in River Falls and having those professional goals personally, I saw that this was an opportunity and that it was worth at least throwing my name in in the hat and giving it my best shot to try to get the job.”
Hall said the district got it right when they hired Crail to be the football coach in 2017, and they got it right now hiring him as the new activities director.
“When we hired him it was because of his new ideas,” Hall said. “And obviously it worked out very well. I think that's the same thing that he's gonna bring to this job.”
Crail said he’s looking forward to working with all of River Falls’ students to teach them the lessons they’’ll need in the classroom, athletics and other activities to be successful in life.
“That's a pretty significant message to be able to convey and have those kids take with them,” he said. “Those lessons, I truly believe, go far beyond just the walls of the building or whatever time is left on the clock in their games. Those are things that they're going to need in life and work as they go on.”
For Hall, his retirement as River Falls activities director brings him full circle in a way. He first came to River Falls to play football at UW-River Falls in 1979 and was an All-American linebacker for the Falcons on his way to earning a spot in the UWRF Athletic Hall of Fame. He traveled back to his high school alma mater, Cameron, and was the head football coach in 1987 and 1988 and was the junior high basketball coach in 1987. In 1989 and 1990 he was a physical education/health teacher and was the head football coach and head girls softball coach at Wautoma High School before coaching football at Lake Holcombe for 13 years, leading the team to a state championship in 1998.
His plans for retirement?
“Undefined,” he said. “You know the joke is that the DNR says there's too many fish in the lakes so I’m going to try and help them with that problem.”
One thing Hall and Crail will continue to have in common is their fondness for River Falls.
“Plus the grandchildren are here so don't think I'll get my wife to move too far away,” Hall said.
“Yeah this is home,” Crail said. “The fact I feel like that, my wife Bethany feels like that, and my kids feel like that in such a short amount of time really speaks to the community just as a whole. It's been such an awesome transition for our family coming here and knowing no one at the time to the point where we are now. Yeah, this is home.”