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Loss of a legend: Former players/assistant coaches reflect on the life of Tim Rimpfel

A legendary coach and even better family man passed away Tuesday. Tim Rimpfel was 73.

Talk for a moment or two with those who knew Rimpfel — a head coach at Cumberland Valley, Bishop McDevitt and Trinity along his journey — and it doesn’t take long for the “Rimpfelisms” to emerge.

One of his favorites, “the tape doesn’t lie,” fits both his style as a no-nonsense head coach and his way of life as teacher, a father to Callie and Katie, and a husband to Liz.

A family man. Loving husband. Caring father. Mentor. Life-long friend. Legendary coach.

His highlight reel had it all. And no, it didn’t lie.

“Tim was one of the best coaches to grace the sidelines in high school sports,” said Brad Zell, a former assistant coach under Rimpfel and current Boiling Springs head coach. “He was a great teacher, people loved him as a teacher. He was a great husband and father. He loved his girls to death. Just an all-around great man who everyone looked up to. Just a special person in every aspect that I can think of.”

Rimpfel’s accomplishments on the sideline were many. A sage of the Wing-T offense, he was one of just 11 coaches in Pennsylvania to surpass the 300-win mark, concluding his coaching career with 307 wins and a tidy 100 losses. He guided the Eagles to nine District 3 championships over 24 seasons and the 1992 PIAA Class 4A title, a victory over Upper St. Clair at Altoona’s Mansion Park Stadium.

Along the way to all those wins and district titles, Tim changed the lives of those with which he crossed paths — and kept in touch with many long after they met.

Whether that was offering advice to former players like Josh Oswalt before they took their first head coaching position (and later the reins of CV), preseason chats or even helping out like he did when another of his proteges, Zell, took over his first program — Rimpfel seemed to know just what to say or do to lean a guiding hand.

And it didn’t matter whether you were on his coaching staff, a player or the ball boy like Joe Headen was when he first met Coach Rimpfel at Bishop McDevitt when he was in the third grade in the mid-1980s — he loved and cared for all. He built relationships, then nurtured them — a task far more difficult than it sounds in our fast-paced lives.

He preached loyalty to his players, but he gave it right back as a life-long friend and mentor to so many. He cared for his fellow coaches, their partners and children.

“It was the family gatherings. The coaches dinners at his house, couples dinners,” Oswalt said. “Making sure everyone’s families and kids were taken care of and that just makes you want to coach with him forever and not let him down. That’s really the foundation that I wanted to have as a head coach because of him. He did it right.”

And his coaches showed the same loyalty to him, often staying on his staff as assistants long after they could have become head coaches themselves.

“I had been offered a job or two before some while Tim was still coaching,” Zell said. “And he got pretty upset at me for not taking the job. And I told him I’m not going anywhere until you go somewhere. I wanted to be a part of what he was doing. We had a lot of those conversations, and when I finally took the job at Boiling Springs he was one of the first I talked to. I said, ‘Well coach, I got it.’ And his response was simply, “It’s about time.’”

There was simply something about his personality, his way, his love of others.

“As special as he was to everyone, my heart goes out to his daughters and (wife) Liz. We lost a football coach, they lost a dad, a husband, a man that everyone loved.”

Oswalt said: “It’s a sad day. But he always coached us after a loss that the sun will rise the next day and we will move forward and remember and learn, and that’s what I’m sure that he would want us to know.”

Indeed. 

They said it:

“When I took over at Carlisle, he was one of the first calls. I called him before I took the Carlisle job and asked him if there was anything that I should be concerned with and he rattled off a few things … and then he stopped and said, ‘But there’s not a better person for the job than you.’ Just to hear that from someone that you looked up to so much.” — Oswalt

“On Mondays after a win, they would bake us cookies. And if we didn’t win, we didn’t get cookies. You know as a coach after a loss, you go home and are in your feelings and are upset, well that likely resonated through the whole Rimpfel household. His wife was an athletic trainer. Football was in their blood, but more importantly he was an educator and he did it for the right reasons. He did it for us and with love and passion for the game. His love and passion about teaching us about life was so much more prolific.” — Oswalt

“For me, I have truly four people who I look up to in my life, my parents and my football coaches. Now with the passing of Coach Rimpfel, both he and Rocky Reese (former Shippensburg University head coach) are now gone.” — Oswalt

“He was very proud of people who played for him, coached for him, that had moved on to do other things. I like to think he was proud of his girls for what they accomplished in life and he was pretty proud of the rest of us for being his boys. He was proud of everyone who moved on and took on challenges. He knew he played a part in that.” — Zell

“I was in third grade when I met Tim Rimpfel. On ‘84-85 McDevitt team, I was the ball boy for McDevitt in third grade. I used to look forward to every Saturday at 10:30 a.m. (for Bishop McDevitt home football games) going up there and being around high school football and Coach Rimpfel and Gary Quigley and guys that when you are in third grade, those coaches are like Gods to you. … I was just thankful that Coach let me be around them and that program. As a young kid playing football, I knew that is what I wanted to do just from being around those guys and watching Coach Rimpfel. You learned so much just from him. He became a mentor. There was my dad and guys like Coach Rimpfel.” — Headen

“There weren’t many kids that he moved up from ninth grade to JV, and I remember that summer, I was doing weight training and he spoke to my parents and said that he wanted me to play JV football. And come to find out that Coach Rimpfel and my mom had a conversation. I played percussion instruments growing up, and my mom told him how grateful she was that he would think that much of (me), but he is going to be in the band his freshman year. I was crushed. I thought Coach Rimpfel was going to hate me. But it was totally the opposite. He knew my mom was pushing me in the right direction. … It made me see that there were other things that were important besides football.” — Headen

“Coaching for him for 17 years, there are so many great moments and satisfying wins. We also had connecting classrooms in school, so there was a lot of talking football during the school day. Those moments and time spent off the field with him and his family will be remembered.” — former CV assistant coach Michael Whitehead

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