EAST MOLINE — Ryan Webber is adding to the changes coming to the Western Big 6 Conference and his appears to be a substantial move.
On Wednesday, Webber tendered his resignation as a coach and physical education teacher at United Township High School to become an assistant coach at the college level.
His destination could not be revealed until paperwork cleared that school and an official announcement was made through the college.
"Coaching at the highest level in college basketball is something I have thought about my entire life," Webber said. "I have a great family who was willing to let me do this. In fact, my wife pushed me harder than I did to go for this.
"I felt like I had to give this a chance. If it doesn't work out, I would not be ashamed to come back and coach high school basketball again but I couldn't pass up this chance."
Webber, who compiled a 77-41 record in his four seasons at UTHS, is the second boys' basketball coach to leave a Western Big 6 school in the past two weeks. Mike Reynolds left Galesburg to become head coach at DeKalb High School.
That will lead to a drastically different landscape when play begins in November as the league is about to begin a new era with the addition of Geneseo and Sterling this school year.
Webber's move was a big one that more than likely caught some by surprise — especially coming so close to the start of the school year.
"Obviously, having this happen so late in the game is not ideal," UT athletic director Mark "Bam" Pustelnik said. "Ryan had to do what he had to do and it is an opportunity he couldn't pass up. I've heard some things in the wind that he might be leaving, so it wasn't completely out of the blue.
"We will miss Ryan. He has done a lot of great things for United Township."
As thrilled as he is for his future, Webber is still sad to leave the Panther program.
"It was hard to tell everyone (Wednesday) and I take so much pride in what we did in the last four seasons," Webber said. "The players and administration have been so awesome when I told everyone. It is difficult to leave the kids because as a coach you are also a father figure and I hate leaving that.
"In our four years, we won 77 games, won a Big 6, got to an Elite 8 and battled through some real tough adversity with injuries and transfers. I tried to make it as big-time as we could. I also want to thank the students. The Panther Posse gave us a great atmosphere at home and on the road."
Pustelnik and his staff now face the tough task of finding Webber's replacement. With some schools starting this week, finding a new head coach will not be easy.
"We posted the position immediately today for the coaching and teaching posts," Pustelnik said. "I think we will draw some very good applicants. I'm sure some varsity assistants and sophomore coaches are out there looking for a head coaching job.
"Getting this out there this soon and in our great media will help give some notice to coaches around the state. We obviously want to get this done as soon as possible but we also want to make sure we get the right person."
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