Richard Rankin knows he's a fortunate man. Rankin is leaving his job on his own terms.
“I love the people I work with,” Rankin said. “I love the job. I'm thankful for the opportunities. I've worked with wonderful people. I've been incredibly fortunate. I couldn't have asked for a better experience.”
But Rankin said he also knows when it's time “to call it quits. You want to spend the rest of your life doing other things.”
So Rankin is thankful he's leaving his job as Porterville Unified School District Athletic Director on his own terms. Rankin is retiring from the position after virtually an entire lifetime as a student-athlete, coach and administrator in Porterville.
Rankin stressed he's not leaving because he's tired or unhappy. “That's not me,” he said.
Rankin is a 1978 Porterville High graduate. He was named as the East Yosemite League Most Valuable Player in boys basketball his senior year.
He went onto play basketball at Porterville College and was eventually inducted into PC's Athletic Hall of Fame. After PC he went onto play basketball for Fresno Pacific.
Rankin then began a career as an educator, coach and administrator that lasted almost 40 years at Cherry Avenue School in Tulare. He worked his way up the ranks, coaching seventh grade basketball and then eighth grade basketball.
He went onto become the freshmen boys basketball coach at Tulare Union where he received a lesson on the fact a freshman team certainly wasn't going to receive priority over the varsity football team that was contending for a Valley title.
Rankin's freshman team was holding practice on a Friday evening in the gym when after about five minutes he was informed the football team needed the entire gym so all the players could lie in the dark and concentrate on the upcoming game that night.
“We were done. I didn't make that mistake again,” said Rankin when it came to who received the highest priority.
Rankin went onto coach junior varsity basketball and Tulare Union and then spent one year as the varsity assistant basketball coach at the school. He then back back home to Porterville in 1988 where he has spent the last 33 years.
In 1988-1989 Rankin served as assistant coach under Ernie Bray as PHS won the EYL title that season. Rankin took over as head coach the next season and continued the program's success as Porterville won five straight EYL crowns from 1989-1993, four of them under Rankin.
In the next two seasons in 1994 and 1995, PHS finished second in the EYL under Rankin. During his time at PHS, Rankin became the school's athletic director while still serving as the boys basketball coach. Rankin had a successful run as the girls tennis coach at PHS as well.
When Granite Hills High School opened in 1999, Rankin came over to that school to help establish that school's athletic program as its athletic director while also serving as the school's varsity basketball coach.
One of Rankin's highlights as basketball coach at Granite Hills came when his team won the Polly Wilhelmsen Invitational title in 1992. That team featured players such as Bear Pascoe, who went onto play in the NFL, Zack Grasmick, Johnny Ramirez, Peter Lopez and Ryan Carson, who was the Polly Wilhelmsen MVP.
But Rankin admitted that accomplishment nor any other accomplishment as a head coach was his most memorable moment during his career. Rankin also served as an assistant coach in football at PHS under Gary Stoddard and he said his most memorable moment came in arguably the greatest Granite Bowl ever played, the 1992 game between PHS and Monache.
Porterville won 31-26 to force a three-way tie for the EYL title between itself, Monache and Tulare Western.
“I've never been a part of any other experience like that,” Rankin said. “I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”
Rankin continued to serve as Granite Hills' athletic director before becoming the athletic director for the entire PUSD district in 2010. During his first hear as the district's athletic director came what is arguably the most heartbreaking experience in city athletic history.
PHS was leading Kingsburg 21-20 in the Division III Valley Championship Game at Jacob Rankin Stadium and appeared on its way to winning the Valley crown late in the game.
But on fourth down, Kingsburg had the ball at its own 20-yard line and quarterback Garrett Steele scrambled back all the way to the back of his end zone and eventually threw a long, game-winning touchdown pass to give the Vikings a 26-21 win. “That was crazy,” Rankin said. “You were that close to winning the section championship.”
But something good came from that championship game. The field the game was played on was in terrible shape.
During the winter of 2010-2011, a considerable amount of rain fell and for much of that winter Rankin Stadium couldn't be used as the field was basically one huge, unplayable mud hole.
But thanks to the district and then-superintendent John Snavely, field turf was in stalled at Rankin the next year and has remained ever since.
“That was one of the best things that happened to our community, having a facility like that,” saying Rankin about the stadium named after his father now being one of the finest in the Valley. “We got beat up for having the worst field in the Valley. I just remember it looked like a tractor pull. Never again.”
Rankin said while he has coached so many athletes who were grateful, he's the one who actually should be thanking them. “You have people come up and thank you but really I'm the one who was lucky,” he said.
Rankin added he has “memories that will last a lifetime. I definitely fell like I was the one who was the most fortunate.”
Rankin said the biggest challenge during his career has been the loss of the three-sport athlete in high school. “We've become so specialized,” he said.
He added when it comes to the demands on high school athletes now, “there's not enough hours in the day.”
He said high school athletics should provide “a wide range of experiences. We don't have that any more. You can't wave a wand and make it go back. But I do believe it was better in those days.”
Of course the other huge challenge for Rankin came at the end of his career and that was dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rankin said dealing with the pandemic was “like nothing we had in the past.” High schools went from not having any competition at all to cramming in all the sports from three seasons into one season this past spring.
“We went from playing no sports to playing 14 sports all in the last three months of this year,” Rankin said. “It was a logistical nightmare.”