BENTON – Matt Thacker knows what it takes to run a highly-successful high school athletic program.
He’s done that for a decade as the head coach of the outstanding Warsaw boys track program.
Now, he will finally get his chance to do it as the head coach on the gridiron.
Thacker, who has been at Warsaw since 2006, was hired Thursday night as the new football coach at Fairfield High School.
Thacker replaces Bob Miller, who retired from coaching at Fairfield in April after 16 seasons in charge of the Falcons.
Thacker, who graduated from WCHS in 1995 after growing up in Indianapolis, feels the timing is right for him to assume the reigns of leadership.
“The bottom line is that I have to do what’s best for my kids and my family,” said Thacker in a phone interview Thursday night. “I have a passion that I want to run my own program. I’m stepping into a good spot in a good community.
“A lot of things just felt right when the opportunity at Fairfield presented itself. It’s a new journey in my life and one that I’m looking forward to.”
Thacker most recently served as the offensive coordinator for the Tigers. Warsaw coach Phil Jensen stepped down in December and former Mishawaka coach Bart Curtis was then hired in February as the new Warsaw coach.
“When the dust settled, I was excited to stay here and coach under coach Curtis,” remarked Thacker. “He’s a Hall of Fame coach. But this opportunity came up. And I’m not getting any younger.”
Thacker, who is 41, has definitely put in the time and patiently awaited his first head coaching job.
“I’ve been an assistant for 20 years (going back to my college days) and I’ve loved it,” said Thacker. “I’ve had the opportunity to work under some great coaches.”
Thacker becomes just the sixth coach in Fairfield football history. Miller was 93-78 in his 16 seasons, the longest tenure of any prep football coach in Elkhart County. Miller led the Falcons to their only sectional title in 2009 and also guided his team to NECC championships in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2013 and 2015. Miller, a Fairfield graduate, led the Falcons to three straight undefeated regular seasons in 2006, 07 and 08.
“I give a lot of credit to coach Miller and what he did here,” said Thacker. “They have done some phenomenal things here in the past.”
Thacker spent time at Lakeland High School from 2000-06 as the freshman head coach and varsity defensive coordinator. He served as the JV coach and varsity offensive line coach at Warsaw before assuming his role as offensive coordinator.
“Warsaw really is a great place,” stated Thacker. “I got pretty choked up today. I’m going to miss the kids in the classroom, on the field and on the track. I’m going to miss the teachers and the other coaches.
“It’s going to leave a void because of the bond, love, respect and happiness among the coaches at Warsaw. But, I’m not going to lose those friendships that I made at Warsaw. Everyone at Warsaw means a lot to me.
“I have nothing but thankfulness for Warsaw schools and everything they did for me as a student there my senior year and everything they have done for me as a teacher and a coach there.”
Thacker has been in charge of the Warsaw boys track program since 2009. The Tigers won seven straight NLC titles under his watch prior to this season. Warsaw has also won seven straight sectionals and four regional titles and earned a fifth-place finish at the State Finals in 2013, the best ever in the history of the program. He also coached the Warsaw girls track team in 2017, guiding them to NLC, sectional and regional championships.
Thacker is a 1999 Manchester College graduate. He and his wife Mary have two children, Grant and Olivia. Thacker will teach in the special education department at Fairfield.
Fairfield has gone 1-9 the past two seasons on the gridiron.