Ken Higbee, who led tiny Pahranagat Valley in Nevada to the longest eight-man football winning streak in history, has stepped down in the aftermath of charges that he stole and misappropriated $122,000 worth of equipment and other items intended for the school where he is principal to Pahranagat Valley’s athletic programs.
Pahranagat Valley principal Mike Strong confirmed to USA TODAY Sports that Higbee officially resigned last week as the head coach for the Panthers, a program that was started by his grandfather.
With just weeks remaining before summer training camp kicks off, Strong confirmed that the school will fill the role internally. For now, Strong said longtime Panthers associate head coach Brett Hanson will oversee preparations for the season.
Strong said the program would name a new head coach within a matter of weeks. That could be an indication that Hanson is likely to take over the role on a permanent basis.
Higbee’s tenure has been in question since April, when 225 charges were filed against him following an in-depth investigation into his role as principal at C.O. Bastian High School. The longtime coach is accused of purchasing and moving new sports equipment from Bastian, a school located at a juvenile detention center, to Pahranagat Valley. Reports have said Higbee maneuvered equipment to a variety of Panthers programs and not only his own football team.
It has also been alleged that some of the items Higbee purchased with embezzled funds were for personal use. Beyond sports equipment such as shoes and clothing, prosecutors allege Higbee purchased welding supplies, tools and household items.
“At the end of the day, he never put a dollar in his pocket,” Higbee’s attorney, Bret Whipple, told the Review-Journal after the charges were filed. “They’re really making a mountain out of a molehill here. It’s truly outrageous.”
“He should probably not have transferred some of the equipment from one school to the other … Everything that he did was not for him personally, but for the community.”
Higbee’s sudden departure comes while his own family remains inextricably tied to the program he leaves behind. His son, Garrett Higbee, was the program’s defensive standout as a junior in 2016 and will be expected to take an even larger leadership role as a senior. As previously mentioned, Higbee’s family was behind the genesis of the football program at Pahranagat, and he was the man at the helm during the school’s eight-year undefeated run, which ended in the state title game last November.
The programs 104 consecutive victories set a record for longest winning streak in eight-man football history, yet it’s ending, combined with the timing of Higbee’s resignation, makes for an awkward footnote to an otherwise glorious career: Despite all the wins, Higbee’s final game in charge was a loss.