SAN ANTONIO – The last time Mike Santiago was hired as a head football coach, he faced the monumental task of building a program from the ground floor.
That was in June 2007, two months after the University of the Incarnate Word announced it would start playing football for the first time in 2009.
Santiago won’t have to start from scratch at Central Catholic, where he has been hired to succeed fired head coach L.D. Green Sr. He does, however, still face an uphill battle going into his first season, racing the clock to put together his first team before the Buttons’ season opener against Kennedy on Aug. 31.
While Santiago acknowledged Wednesday that he is Central’s new coach, he said he would not comment on the job until the school formally announces his hiring Tuesday at a news conference. Kens5.com reported June 2 that Santiago would succeed Green, who was fired on the last day of school.
Santiago won't be the only former UIW head coach going to Central for the 2007-18 school year. Former Major Leaguer Danny Heep, who has been the Cardinals' baseball coach for the past 13 years, will succeed Mike Gomez as the Buttons' baseball coach.
Green went 19-14 in three seasons at Central, which won two district championships and advanced to the TAPPS playoffs each year during his tenure. His best finish was in 2015 when the Buttons went 8-3. The Buttons were 6-5 in 2014 and 5-6 last year.
The Central job is the first at the high-school level for Santiago, who coached in the college ranks for more than three decades at 10 different schools. He went 48-45 in nearly nine seasons at Incarnate Word and Stephen F. Austin.
Santiago was 39-27 in six seasons (1999-2004) at SFA, and 9-18 at UIW before resigning with three games left in the 20011 campaign. He has worked as a sales manager for a company that sells headphones that football coaches use on the sideline during games.
Santiago led UIW to a 4-5 finish as an NCAA Division II independent in its first season, and was 3-8 in 2010 when the Cardinals moved into the Lone Star Conference. UIW was 2-5 when he stepped down in 2011, citing philosophical differences with the school’s administration.
Green was Central’s third coach in three seasons when he was hired in 2014, following Chris Roberts (2011) and Don Byrd (2012, 2013). Before those three seasons, Carlos Enrico was the Buttons’ head coach for 25 seasons
Although Green never had been a head coach, he was no stranger to Central Catholic when he took the job. He was an assistant coach under Enrico for four seasons, joining the Buttons' staff two days after ending his 24-year Army career with his retirement in April 2007.
Green left Central after the 2010 season to become an assistant coach at Trinity. He coached the Tigers' offensive line during the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Central also has a new athletic director, Hector Rodriguez, who has been an assistant AD with the Northside ISD since 2013. He will start working at Central full time on July 1.
Enrico has been the Buttons’ athletic director since 1987, the same year he succeeded Marshall Fleener as head coach. A 1972 Central graduate, Enrico returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach in 1986 and remained with the Buttons until getting promoted.
Although Enrico said the decision to resign as head coach in February 2011 was his, the hiring of first-year coach Chris Roberts created a backlash among the school’s alumni, who said they believed Enrico had been forced out.
The alums aired their grievances with the Central Administration in a meeting attended by more than 120 graduates later in February 2011. About 40 people spoke at the meeting, which was held in the school gym and lasted more than three hours.
Enrico went 159-107-2 in his 24 seasons as head coach, leading the Buttons to two TAPPS state championships. One of the most popular figures in Central history, Enrico will remain at the school as athletic director emeritus and a fundraiser.