ODU coach Ricky Rahne, a Colorado native, speaks out about mass shootings

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David Hall, The Virginian-Pilot
·3 min read
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Ricky Rahne hasn’t talked to his team about the most recent mass shootings in America because he doesn’t think he could possibly stay ahead of the conversation.

But the second-year Old Dominion football coach is certainly equipped to have it.

Rahne grew up in Morrison, Colorado, about a 40-minute drive from the site of Monday’s deadly grocery store shooting that took the lives of 10 people, including a police officer, in Boulder.

Rahne attended a high school whose main rival was Columbine High, the site of 13 shooting deaths in the spring of 1999. Rahne said his firefighter father, Ray, was first on the scene that day.

So it is that during a post-practice session with the media on Tuesday, after talking about his team’s spring progress, Rahne discussed the issue for nearly six minutes.

“At some point, we’ve got to figure out what we’re doing in this country to get that fixed,” Rahne, a father of two sons, said. “I think that it’s hard for me to explain to my sons why the flag always flies at half-mast. Eventually, as a country, we’re going to figure out that the flag flying at half-mast can’t be the norm for our youth, and that’s what it is right now.”

A 21-year-old suspect, now in police custody, opened fire outside and inside a Boulder supermarket. It followed a series of shootings at Atlanta-area spas that took the lives of seven women and one man, most of them of Asian descent, on March 16.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday called on Congress for tougher gun laws as a result of the massacres.

Rahne said he gave serious consideration to speaking to his team after the latest tragedy.

“I’d be talking about it every day,” he said. “I would’ve talked about it twice in the last week, right? And that’s kind of a sad state of affairs on many, many levels. In my opinion, obviously, we need to have some serious conversations about gun laws in this country. But I think even more importantly, we need to have some serious conversations about mental health issues in this country.”

Rahne was a freshman at Cornell on April 20, 1999, when some somber-faced fraternity brothers who knew where he grew up directed his attention to the television and what was unfolding at Columbine. Rahne surmised that his father was indeed working.

After a fruitless call to his sister, Rahne finally learned that night that his dad was OK.

A Vietnam Veteran, Ray Rahne was no stranger to trauma. Rahne hopes his children and his players don’t become numb to it.

“These things aren’t destiny,” he said. “Obviously, as a country, we need to find a way to work past this and figure out a solution for them. And when I say that, I know this is not something where one football coach can figure out the solution to this, and it’s an easy solution. This is years in the making. But I do think, obviously, we’ve got to start going down some sort of path to protect our future, protect our children.”

David Hall david.hall@pilotonline.com