As we roll into February we begin to see stories taking shape in communities across our state in respect to their high school football coaches. As of today, Murphy Fair’s Tennessee High School Football website lists 39 schools that have hired, or are in the process of hiring, head coaches. That’s considerably down from the over 50 last February, or the over 60 the previous winter.
It’s a big deal when schools change coaches, especially when the outgoing coach has had success.
Such is the case at Powell, where Matt Lowe suddenly resigned on the morning of Feb. 3. Matt played at Powell in the mid-90s and was outstanding. During his six years there he was 49-23, including a runner-up finish in last year’s Class 5A BlueCross Bowl. That heartbreaking 17-14 loss to Henry County turns out to be his last at Powell.
Despite the loss of some great players to graduation, including the state’s all time single season rushing leader DyShawn Mobley, the Panthers look to be very competitive in the coming season. It’s difficult to understand how he could step down after having so much success in his hometown.
I’m sure the folks surrounding the Powell program, including assistant coaches, players and families, supporters and booster clubs, and administration are all shocked by the sudden departure.
Now the search will begin for a replacement, and I’m predicting there will not be a heavy flow of applications. Not because it isn’t a good job, but because it will be almost impossible to duplicate the success of Lowe, and even if you do you still won’t be a ‘hometown hero’.
Brentwood Academy is another interesting head coach development. The announcement of Cody White as head coach and athletic director included the news that White was offered the job in 2006, but turned it down as Ralph Potter was hired from McCallie.
White was both the head coach and athletic director in Denison, Texas, before agreeing this week to make the move to Brentwood. Obviously the job is one of the state’s best, with plenty of resources and a proud tradition of state championships, although none during the last decade.
Interestingly, White’s Denison team was a combined 5-15 over last two seasons after enjoying great success, including a combined 25-3, during his second and third years. That’s a pretty big drop in success pretty quick, which tells me that the Brentwood Academy administration must really like what they see.
I’ve had the pleasure of broadcasting a number of games from Stratford’s stadium during my 28 years covering high school football, and although crowds were never large, the folks who were the backbone of the program support it intensely.
Aaron Pitts is the man tabbed to replace Jason Smith in Spartan country, and he will have his hands full against tough competition in District 10-AA. CPA, Maplewood, and David Libscomb are teams Stratford has to beat to win a district championship.
Programs such as Columbia, Franklin, Gallatin, and Austin-East are proven winners year after year. The consistent talent level shows that state titles can, and have been, won at those schools. As each goes through the coaching search process, it has to be difficult on those who support it as they wait to find out who the boss is.
The quality of open head coaching slots within Tennessee is extremely high, with those four heading the list. There are smaller schools, who haven’t been near as successful, also going through the challenges of hiring a new head football coach.
Schools such as Tellico Plains, Richland, and Cannon County are not exactly juggernauts in high school football, but they are communities that support their programs and want to win. They are in the process of making hires as well, and my hope is that each of them makes a great hire who can motivate the kids and enjoys success. They deserve it.