CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE - Frank Riggitano says he's not coming back to coach the Middle Township High School football because nobody else wanted the job.
Riggitano resigned as Middle's coach after the 2001 season. The Panthers were 49-54 in his 11 seasons and made the 1993 South Jersey Group II playoffs.
"This is not, 'I'm going to go through the motions,' " Riggitano said. "They are going to get more of an effort than I ever gave before because I don't have the limitations I had before at home. That's why I got out in the first place. They're getting full barrel, and we're going to get it right."
Riggitano, 50, is now Middle's vice principal. His teams were always competitive. The Panthers beat perennial power St. Joseph in 1992 and 1993. The Middle Township Board of Education confirmed Riggitano's hiring as the new coach last week. He replaces Mike Wilson, who coached Middle the past two seasons.
"To get a coach with head coaching experience was important," Middle athletic director Scott Lodgek said. "He's a guy who's had success in the (Cape-Atlantic League). His community ties are immense."
Riggitano stepped down mostly because he wanted to see his son, Matt, now a college sophomore, and daughter, Julianna, now a Middle sophomore, play sports.
"I'm excited," Riggitano said. "I think the kids are excited. I think the parents are excited. I wish we could get started right away."
Middle football has struggled since Riggitano left. The Panthers went a combined 12-38 the past five seasons.
Riggitano isn't interested in any longterm rebuilding plans.
"I told (next season's) seniors it would be very easy to say we're going to rebuild," he said. "But that's not fair to them. There's enough talent in the building that I think I can draw out to the field that I think we're going to be very competitive next year."
Riggitano plans to have a meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the school cafeteria about the program. Anyone can attend, he said.
"I'm going to present my plan," he said, "and I'm going to open it up for questions. I don't know what it's going to turn into, but I'm going to be fair and honest."
The meeting is the first step in Riggitano's plan to reach out to the community and involve it in the program,
"I think my relationship with the community can help us get over that hump and get back to being respectable and winning games," he said. "That's what it comes down to. Kids want to win, and the community wants to win. I would love to get in a situation where we're contending for the playoffs, and I think we can do it."
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