Longtime Hannibal football coach says next season will be his last

Hannibal head football coach Mark St. Clair adjusts his headset Sept. 1 before a 26-7 win at Boonville.
Posted: Mar. 9, 2018 7:33 pm

Mark St. Clair isn't quite ready to hang up his whistle.

The longtime Hannibal High School head football coach intends to return for his 22nd season leading the program.

But the end of his tenure is within sight.

St. Clair, the winningest coach in team history, confirmed Friday to the Courier-Post he intends to retire from the Hannibal Public School District following the 2018-19 school year.

"Just seems like one more year, it'll be my 32nd year in education, my 30th year in Hannibal, this is a good time to go," said St. Clair, a 2017 inductee into the Missouri Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. "I'm looking forward to another year. It's great to have some clarity into what you want. It's just nice to know I'm going to go one more year and then it will be time to retire.

"It seems like the right time and the right thing to do."

The idea of retirement is nothing new for St. Clair, who announced last March he was calling it a career before experiencing a change of heart nine days later.

Coming off a 6-5 season, St. Clair mentioned he has treated this offseason the same as any other even while he considered whether to step aside now. 

"The thing is, it's not really about me and whether it's my last year or if I were going 10 more or even not next year," St. Clair said. "Regardless, I was going to do the same offseason whether I was coming back or not. I was going to work with the kids, get the most out of them and talk with them about grades, behavior and making good decisions."

St. Clair's Pirates have compiled a record of 176-64 under his direction, posting a winning record all but one season. 

The 53-year-old has served as head coach for eight more seasons than any other in program history. 

"There were great coaches here way before I was here," St. Clair said of Hannibal. "John Bringer, Gregg Nesbit, Paul Thomas, there is a long stream of people who have done a lot of things here. I've just been here for an extended period of time as a head coach and by no means have been by myself." 

St. Clair noted his deep staff of assistants gives him confidence the program will be in good hands after his departure.

"Without them, it'd be a harder decision to step out if I didn't know what kind of coaches I was leaving here for the kids," he said. "They are very capable and I look forward to seeing them in the future."

The decision to step away is not one St. Clair takes lightly.

"Absolutely, it's a hard decision when you've invested as much time, effort and money as I have into the program," St. Clair said. "You get attached to the kids even though they come in and out and graduate. I enjoy being around the kids. I enjoy the classes. I look forward to seeing them."

St. Clair, a physical education teacher who also serves as head track and field coach, said he recently informed the district office of the retirement timeline he has in mind.

He hopes the advance notice provides enough time for everyone involved to properly move forward.

"This can set things up for the future so the success continues for a long, long time — and it will," he said. "This gives everybody a period of time to figure out where they're going and what they're doing.

"I think it's the right thing to give everybody time to prepare, including myself. But it's a tough decision anytime you walk away from something you care deeply about and have spent a lot of time and effort to develop and be around." 

St. Clair added how much he has enjoyed his ride on the sidelines with the Pirates.

His tenure at the helm of Hannibal football includes coaching 21 first-team all-state selections and reaching the 2006 state championship game.

"It's been wonderful," St. Clair said of his career. "Great community, love the town, love the school. I'm not going anywhere. It's just time for a change. The time is right. I've got a grandbaby on the way, so I'm looking forward to another chapter in my life." 

There remains unfinished business before that next chapter begins.

St. Clair is ready for one final football season.

"The expectations don't change," he said.

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