The Waunakee football team has a tradition of success, with seven state championships during Coach Pat Rice’s 32-year tenure as head coach, including five seasons ending as runners-up and 18 playing in the semi-finals. Under his leadership, the Warriors enjoyed a 16-year winning streak with a 342-44 record.

Ready to retire from teaching, Rice spoke to the Waunakee Rotary Club about the program's winning tradition. 

Rice grew up in McFarland, the son of a winning high school football coach who was president of the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association.

His brothers and uncles on both are also football coaches, he said, noting he learned a lot from them and didn’t seem to have much of a choice when it came to his career. 

“It’s not everybody who can go deer hunting after a tough state championship loss and get advice from every family member,” he said, adding he is “blessed to have a great family.”

That family Includes his wife and three daughters. All daughters are in education, as well.

While Rice couldn’t point to a “secret sauce” fueling the program’s success, he said consistency and commitment were part of it, along with his family’s support.

Rice pointed out the district’s growth since he started, noting the high school had 550 students when in 1992 and is now up to 1,400, with more coaches and more players. 

But the overall desire to see the kids have a positive experience remains. Last season, between all of the programs, 875 kids played. The coach said the staff and administration have helped create the experience for the kids. 

He also credited his predecessor, Gayle Quinn, who was athletic director when Rice began, for the program’s winning tradition, calling him an “unbelievable legend” and leader, along with former Coach Dick Trotta.

“I feel like I was lucky to have all those people,” he said, adding that the program “wasn’t just built now.”

Rice made some changes to the team in 2017, changing what the team did offensively that also benefited it defensively. The Warriors won the state championship that year. He said 2020 was the toughest year with a very good team that went undefeated but didn’t have a chance to play in the state championship. 

Along with being able to change and evolve, the special teams have also helped the Warriors to victory. 

The program also includes a Middle School Football alliance, with all participants eligible for play. The number of kids involved indicates that they are having fun doing it, he said. The booster club has supported the program, as well, Rice said. 

Rice described the program’s commitment to developing the players, saying the coaches look at more than the players’ athleticism, considering the whole person, including the academic achievements, character development and leadership, along with nutrition. 

Looking ahead, Rice praised the coach chosen to succeed him, Chris Graverson. 

“We’re in great shape with the next guy coming in,” he said. 

Coach Rice seems to have no regrets about his years in Waunakee. 

“Overall, my experience here has been wonderful. I cannot thank the people enough,” he said, adding he has been proud to be part of the program. 


Other News: 

-The steak fry is June 5. 

Guests: Linda Schmitz, guest of Jim Schmitz; Josh Satzer, guest of John Cullen; Tom Wilson, guest of Dean Grosskopf. 

Visiting Rotarians: Shelley Moffatt, Kent, Washington 

Birthdays: May 23, Bob Klostermann; May 26, Bob Lenz.

Anniversaries: May 23, Greg and Heidi Garton; May 25, Mick and Jeamie Holm; May 25, Jon and Barbara Townley.

Greeters: May 23, Lori Derauf and Kylie West; May 30, David Kennedy and Jean Elvekrog; June 6, ???

 To sign up to greet or to find out if you are greeting, visit: