Former Beaufort High football coach Mike Rentz dead at 65

mmccombs@beaufortgazette.comJuly 30, 2013 

Former Beaufort High School football coach and athletics director Mike Rentz died Sunday at the age of 65.

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It was Friday, Sept. 16, 1983 and it may have been the biggest night in the history of modern Beaufort High School football.

The legendary John McKissick and his defending state 4-A champion Summerville Green Wave came to town in search of McKissick's milestone 300th win.

Instead, the Beaufort Eagles played a rude host and sent Summerville home a 17-7 upset loser, giving the Green Wave one of its two losses in a three-year span.

The architect of that victory, former Beaufort High School head football coach Mike Rentz died on Sunday at the age of 65.

Jerry Linn, who took over as Beaufort High athletics director from Rentz in 2002 after his second stint at the school, first worked for Rentz right out of the U.S. Marine Corps as the Eagles' baseball coach.

"I respected everything he did," Linn said. "I would go to him with questions. He was my mentor. He was a good man."

Rentz, who resided in St. Augustine Beach, Fla., at the time of his death, coached the Eagles from 1980 to 1986 and was a longtime Beaufort High assistant coach and athletics director, as well.

The 1983 win over Summerville propelled the Eagles to the Region 6-AAAA championship and a 10-2 season. The Eagles also posted another 10-2 season and earned the 1985 Region 6-AAA championship under his watch.

But that 1983 win was the biggest.

"(McKissick) was going for his 300th win, and that was a big thing. John McKissick was and still is a big thing," said Linda Kirkland, a longtime Beaufort High administrator who was an assistant to Rentz in the athletic department. "During the course of the day, we came up with the slogan, '300? Not this week, see Goose Creek,' which was who they were playing the next week.

"At the time tickets were $3, and we decided to sell them for $2.99 instead, meaning that's what he was going to be stuck on. We went to the bank and got a whole bunch of pennies and gave them as change with the tickets. I can't tell you how many pennies they found on the ground and in the stands after the game."

Beaufort shut down Summerville, or "throttled" them if you believe the headline in that Monday's Gazette -- there were no weekend newspapers in Beaufort then.

"We never beat Summerville, ever, at least the modern Beaufort High," said Mike Rentz Jr., then a freshman on his father's team. "Dad had some good games against them, real nailbiters. Beaufort's a different place and the kids are different. You've kind of got to convince them that they can do some things, that they can win. He'd had three straight 5-5 seasons. He'd go toe-to-toe with Summerville and turn around the next week and struggle against a bad team."

But Rentz said his father was convinced Beaufort could be a winner and worked hard to bring the school's program up to date.

"He got a weight room built at Beaufort High. He got a weightlifting class added," Rentz Jr. said. "He did a lot of progressive things that you hadn't seen around here. And it all played out with that '83 team. They were loaded. It was early in the year and he'd convinced a lot of kids that that they could compete and they could win. And finally they did, and it was huge for the town, I remember the stadium was packed. Everybody rushed the field after the game."

Beaufort would go on to lose in the second round of the state 4-A playoffs, while Summerville would win a state championship, one of three in a row and six in a nine-year span.

While the winning was big for Rentz, he may have had two bigger passions. The first was his drive to get his players into college.

"Dad took it very personally to try to get kids into school, and he got a lot of kids into a lot of schools," Rentz Jr. said. "Kids that would not have gone to college if not for football."

Recruiting was a different animal in the 1980s. Football highlights didn't yet dominate television, and there was no Internet.

"We would get postcards from schools recruiting players (asking for recommendations)," Kirkland said. "Once a week, Mike would sit down with me and give me the list of who he wanted to recommend to which schools and what their grades were and such. And we took the time to do it. Anything we got from anyone, we always sent back with somebody's name on it."

Mike Rentz Jr. said his father took pride in his efforts to get kids some place they wouldn't have been able to go. But he also said those efforts may have hurt him more than once.

Rentz quit in 1986 when the school wouldn't give him more time out of the school day to focus on those endeavors.

"He never was afraid to stick up for what he thought was right," Rentz Jr. said. "He, maybe mistakenly, drew a line in the sand with administration. It cost him the coaching job, and it cost him the athletics director job later."

His other passion was track. Also a longtime track coach, Rentz created the Beaufort Track Classic and the Beaufort Relays and led the Eagles to a Class 3-A runner-up finish in 1987.

"I would almost argue that track was his passion," Rentz Jr. said. "It was not as stressful as football. He really loved track and he loved to watch guys compete that way. He was always in a little better mood after a track meet than a football game."

Mike Rentz Jr. grew up watching his father on the practice fields and around the track at Beaufort High and was coached by his father as a quarterback for the Eagles. When Rentz Jr. took the football coaching job at Beaufort Middle School, where he would coach his own son, Mike called his father for advice.

"It was neat for all of us," Mike Rentz Jr. said. "I got to coach over there on the field where I played and watched his games. It was a big deal for me and I know it was a big deal for him."

"He ingrained in me, 'Don't quit on your commitments,' " Rentz Jr. said. "No matter how bad it gets, you committed to a bunch of people, and you're going to do the best you can and see it through. And that's what I try to teach my kids. When things are going bad, I'll tell them, 'You committed and once you quit one thing, you keep quitting.' That's how he coached."

Rentz, who attended South Carolina on a football scholarship, graduated from Newberry before earning his masters in counselor education from USC.

He was the head football coach from 1972 to 1974 at the old McCracken High School in Bluffton, where he also coached boys basketball and track. He moved to Beaufort as an assistant coach in 1975 before becoming head coach in 1980 and, eventually, athletics director.

"At the same time, he was a classroom teacher and he actually taught," Kirkland said. "He didn't just throw up a movie. He taught all kinds of stuff -- history, geography, economics ..."

After leaving Beaufort High in 1986, he coached two seasons at A.C. Flora near Columbia before leaving coaching and teaching briefly.

He returned to teach at Battery Creek High and returned to Beaufort High in the early 1990s, becoming AD again in the mid 90s until his departure after the Christmas break at the beginning of 2002.

Rentz moved to St. Augustine, Fla., where he coached at several different stops before retiring. He was diagnosed with leukemia in May 2012, and though he had improved drastically and was feeling well of late, complications set in over the summer.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at Anastasia Baptist Church in St. Augustine, Fla., with visitation receding at 1 p.m.. Arrangements are being handled by St. John's Family Funeral Home of St. Augustine.

In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory can be made to Anastasia Baptist Church.

MIKE RENTZ'S SC COACHING RECORD

Record: 81-75-1, 12 seasons

McCracken High School

1972: 6-3-1

1973: 3-7

1974: 6-5

Beaufort High School

1980: 5-5

1981: 5-5

1982: 5-5

1983: 10-2, Region 6-AAAA champions

1984: 7-4

1985: 10-2, Region 6-AAA champions

1986: 6-4

AC Flora High School

1987: 2-8

1988: 1-10

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