Friday Night Lights: Ames High Coach Vertanen Steps Away from the Sideline After 34 Seasons

Posted February 12, 2020

After 34 seasons walking the sidelines as an Ames High football coach, Bruce Vertanen announced his retirement from football following the 2019 season. In a letter to his coaching staff, Vertanen said, “It has been one of my greatest joys to be the head football coach at Ames High. I can’t thank you enough for all that you have done to support me, my family, and more importantly our program as a whole. Wins and losses will fade with time but the kids will never forget how you have treated them.”

Vertanen has been a staple of not only of the Ames High football program but of Ames High athletics. He walked the sideline on Friday nights for 34 years; 19 years as head coach and 15 years as an assistant coach prior to that. On September 14, 2019, he notched his 100th win and currently ranks 3rd all-time at Ames High with 106 wins. In addition to football, Vertanen coached the girl’s basketball team for 12 seasons where he made 2 state tournament appearances and was the CIML Coach of the Year three times. He was an assistant boys basketball coach when Ames High won back-to-back state championships in ‘10 and ‘11. He was also named Iowa High School Assistant Track & Field Coach of the Year during his coaching career.

For Vertanen, everything was about supporting the athletes and creating a team atmosphere. He was the first to give his athletes credit for their success and continually noted the impact that his assistants made every practice and game. Assistant football coach and head boy’s basketball coach Vance Downs said, “Bruce Vertanen is one of the hardest working coaches I have ever worked with. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Bruce and his family for all his years of sacrifice and commitment to the district.” Ames High Athletic Director Judge Johnston echoed that sentiment noting the impact that Vertanen has made to the athletic program. “I can’t thank Bruce enough for his leadership not only within our football program but our entire athletic program. It has been a privilege to watch him develop our young men both on and off the field. He genuinely cared about every athlete on his teams from the star player to the least talented player on his roster.” 

Although he is stepping aside from the football field, he will continue to assist the Ames High track & field program this spring and will continue his classroom teaching into the 2020-2021 school year.