There has been a steady stream of big sports news out of Madras High School over the past few weeks: new football coach hired, athletic director leaves to take job at large Washington school, and then this week's bombshell: former MHS boys basketball coach Evan Brown is back as the new athletic director.

Brown left MHS after he was passed over the for the AD job a few years ago, and after getting the AD job at Cascade High School. In a classic case of better late than never, he's back in the job he was once refused.

When he left, Madras had recently entered the Intermountain Conference. MHS spent four years of being in that 5A division. A solid pool of athletes, among the school's best-ever collection, saw the Buffs represent the school very well during the 5A years in many sports. But what could have been 4A state title runs (certainly in basketball and baseball) topped out as state playoff seasons. However, some sports languished in the larger division — football, for instance, had to back out of the conference.

Madras re-entered the 4A level in 2010-11, but success has been elusive.

During his long tenure coaching White Buffalos boys basketball, Coach Brown was known for getting the most out of his teams, outcoaching nearly every foe. AD Brown is coming into a larger challenge. He's coming back to the school at a down time, overall, for athletics. Outside of volleyball, there isn't a program near its historic heights. One sport, golf, in which Madras has won both girls and boys state titles, has disappeared altogether.

The Madras Aquatic Center wasn't in swing when Brown was last at MHS. Its successful club and team sports have taken some athletes away from other MHS sports, but not to the point it should take blame for other programs' lack of success.

Brown's return is part of an Era of New that kicks off this fall, featuring a new football stadium, new football coach and new upscale track — all of which should improve the athletic culture at Madras High. That is the main duty of the AD: creating and enhancing the athletic culture. Brown's predecessor, Rory Oster, poured a lot of energy into that goal. But the athletic director can only do so much to foster success on the field. Success comes primarily from youth programs, parental involvement, coaches from varsity level down, and most importantly, the makeup of the youths themselves.

Making it even more difficult to endure the downtime is that our 4A neighbors are enjoying opposite conclusions. Among their highlights: Sisters finished second in state in baseball; Ridgeview won state in football and made the semifinals in baseball in the school’s first varsity seasons; Crook County won its eighth straight volleyball state title, set the points records in winning the state wrestling title, and finished second in state in girls track.

Madras won only one league title (volleyball) last year. We have work to do.

Brown is a great hire for the school district, and should have been hired back when he was passed over. His return to White Buffalo athletics is the latest element to this Era of New. His is a great challenge, though, and it may be a long road to success.

But Buffalo fans are eager to let Brown take the keys for the drive down that road.

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