Beth Buglione never set out to be a trailblazer.
A life-long football fan, Buglione has spent the past two decades doing everything she could to be a part of the sport she loves, whether it was as a player, as an official or even if it meant “carrying someone’s bag.”
But when Buglione, who moved to Firestone from Oregon in May, agreed to take the reins of the football program at Nederland High School in early June, she is believed to have become the first female head coach in Colorado history.
“It was never my intention to put a spotlight on me and to prove that women can do the job,” said Buglione, 52. “I was just following my passion.”
Buglione brings an eclectic resume to the position, getting her start in the sport back in 2001 when she read in a local paper in Corvallis, Ore., about an Independent Women’s Football League team looking for players. She went to the tryout, told the head coach she was going to be his quarterback, and held that position for the next three years.
Buglione eventually became the coach, general manager and owner of the team, the Corvallis Pride, until it folded in 2009.
Since 2001, she has also spent time as an official, coached a semi pro Nineman men’s team, was an assistant at Philomath (Ore.) High School and most recently had a stint at Sheridan (Ore.) High School.
Buglione said she never had an issue with being a female in a profession dominated by men.
“I was fortunate that there was a very accepting coaching community in Oregon,” Buglione said. “If you know what you’re doing, the kids are going to accept you and the other coaches are going to accept you.”
Whether she wants to be a trailblazer or not, in Colorado it appears Buglione will be just that.
“To my knowledge, this is the first female high school head football coach in our state,” CHSAA assistant commissioner Bert Borgmann said.
Predecessor says ‘leadership’ key
Buglione replaces former head coach Aaron Jones, whose dismissal late last year led to public outcry from a group of students and parents who were not happy to see Jones be let go after more than 10 years on the job.
A change.org petition to ” restore Coach Jones as NMSHS football coach in 2017” gathered 271 signatures, and a group of parents and students gathered at Nederland Middle-Senior High School’s auditorium in January to denounce the abrupt firing of Jones.
About 50 students — which constituted about 20 percent of the students enrolled at the school — walked out of school in January to protest Jones’ contract not being renewed.
Reached by phone on Saturday, Jones said that he remains “proud of my 11 years and every team and every season I’ve been a Nederland Panther.
“This community spoke loudly and clearly about the decision made last fall,” Jones said. “I wouldn’t change a thing. I wish nothing but the most success to the Panthers, to Coach B and to my community.”
He added that a mentor once said to him that “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”
Also, Jones said, “It remains to be seen what will happen at Nederland.”
The news stirred conversation Saturday at one traditional Nederland gathering place.
Pioneer Inn owner Cindy Shaw said that she had not heard about Buglione’s hiring but she supports seeing “strong females taking leadership roles.”
“I remember growing up with my mom and my aunt and they were expected to be nurses, teachers, wives, secretaries or bad women,” she said. “Getting women into these (leadership) roles is a way to start unlocking doors.”
Nederland resident Ray Visco was sitting at the Pioneer Inn having a beer, and when talk broke out around the subject, he chimed in that it will be interesting to see a woman come into a testosterone-drenched sport like football.
He added that he is perfectly fine with it, and he thinks the town will be, too.
“We can’t have a football program without a coach,” he said. “I think the town will fully support her, and even the kids whose dads drive backhoes won’t care.”
Also present was Nederland resident Jon Eischeid, who said that the while circumstances surrounding Jones’ dismissal caused drama in the town, he supported the hiring of a woman to lead the football team.
“Is it a great choice?” he said. “I can’t tell you that. But it’s an interesting choice and I hope it works out.”
Buglione, who is an avid nature photographer, admits that she “walked right into the crosshairs” with regard to the controversy surrounding the departure of Jones. But she appreciates the loyalty that his players showed to him.
“They wanted him to stay, and I appreciate that,” she said. “When we get them going in the right direction, hopefully those wounds will heal.”