Chip Coldiron says he was given the choice of resigning or being relieved of his duties as head football coach at Whitko High School.

He says he chose the latter because “I’m not quitting” on the players.

Reached late Tuesday night, Coldiron said he accepted his firing Monday evening, and that he did so in front of the team at what had already been scheduled as a practice.

Per Coldiron, he was told by Whitko athletic director Barry Singrey in a meeting late after Friday night’s 70-0 loss at Rochester that “I need you either to resign or you’re going to be fired.”

Singrey, according to Coldiron, granted the coach until Monday to make a decision.

Coldiron says he asked Singrey to attend Monday’s 6 p.m. gathering with the team and that the AD obliged.

Coldiron says he then filled the players in on the situation.

“I told them, ‘In my heart, I can’t give up on you,’” Coldiron said. “‘I can’t resign, so Mr. Singrey wants to relieve me of my duties.’”

Coldiron says he then asked the AD in front of the players, “‘Mr. Singrey, am I relieved of my duties?’ He said, ‘Yes.’”

Singrey confirmed Coldiron’s departure Wednesday morning, but declined further comment.

Later in the day, the school released a statement that Coldiron has been “relieved of his duties” by Singrey, “with the support” of principal Amy Evans.

“We thank Coach Coldiron for his time as the head football coach, and we will continue to value him as a teacher,” Singrey said in the statement. “However, through further evaluation of the football program, we have decided that a change in leadership is necessary.”

The statement added that “the assistant coaches will remain with the team and an interim coach will be named at a later date.”

JD Maurer, Tom Ganz, Nate Ganz and Sean Ream are the assistants.

Coldiron says that Whitko’s decision to make a mid-season coaching change caught him by surprise, like “a shot in the dark.”

He says he had met with Singrey last Thursday and recommended that Whitko cancel the Rochester game based on the Wildcats’ dwindling number of available players.

That included two individuals becoming sick that day to go with a handful of key players being sidelined over the previous couple weeks by injuries and three players not available due to not having enough practices logged.

Coldiron says Singrey told him the game would be played.

“I said, ‘OK, we’re pretty much playing with a JV team,’” Coldiron said.

According to Coldiron, just 21 players dressed Friday and 18 of them were freshmen and sophomores.

“There’s only seven upperclassmen (juniors and seniors) on the entire roster, and going into that game, five of them were not playing,” Coldiron said.

Further, according to Coldiron, there was a safety factor involved in his desire to cancel the game. He says more than a dozen of the available players were individuals he didn’t feel were ready for regular varsity football.

Friday’s loss at Rochester, leaving the Wildcats 0-3, followed home losses of 39-0 against Prairie Heights and 60-0 against Peru.

Whitko finished 1-9 in Coldiron’s rookie season last fall after he was hired in late July following Phil Jensen’s retirement.

The program went 4-6 during Jensen’s final year, but just 1-29 over the three prior years, with three different head coaches involved during that stretch.

Coldiron says he feels he was not given sufficient time to try to improve the program and that if it was in a similar spot to right now after three years, “I’d have resigned myself.”

He points out that the AD and principal at Whitko are not the same ones who were in those positions when he was hired.

“I’m disappointed certain things were said when I was hired and they’re not being followed through,” said Coldiron, who also mentioned that he understands administrative changes occur and that Singrey has been “polite” during the process.

Coldiron says he asked if he could at least finish out the season, to no avail.

In choosing not to resign, he says he considered the message he had delivered to his team when it trailed 56-0 at halftime Friday.

“What we talked about was never giving up,” Coldiron said.

Concerning why he was fired, Coldiron says “there were a few (things mentioned), but to me, they were nonsensical.”

Those included, from Friday’s game “that some of the kids didn’t know the substitution plan.”

Coldiron, a social studies teacher at Whitko, remains in that role. He says he anticipates returning to football coaching somewhere at some point.

“I want to thank the people who hired me, gave me the opportunity,” the 43-year-old Coldiron said. “I learned a lot in my 13 months and look forward to taking that experience with me.”

He says “there were some tears shed” during Monday’s meeting.

“I never gave up on the kids,” Coldiron said. “I tried to make them better every day, better teammates, better people. … I think once they get healthy, they can turn this season around, and I’ll sure be rooting for them to do well.”

Prior to landing at Whitko, Coldiron was a high school assistant for seven years, the last three at alma mater Norwell. He also served in the U.S. Army for five years, including two deployments to Afghanistan totaling 28 months.

The Wildcats host Maconaquah (2-1) at 7 p.m. Friday.