There was a time, not too many years ago, when I could tell you the name of the head football coach at any given high school in Tennessee. I didn't even need a reference sheet. All you had to do was throw out the name of a school and I would fire back with the name of that school's head football coach.
Coaches once stayed in place for long periods of time. J. C. Campbell, for example, was the head coach at Hampton for more than 40 years before retiring this past spring. He's still a part time assistant.
There are a handful of coaches today who have remained loyal to one school. Gatlinburg Pittman's Benny Hammonds (38 years) leads the pack. Collierville's Paul Cox (34 years) is a close second with McEwen's L. C. Nolan (31 years) in third place.
A dozen other schools have had the same head football coach for more than 20 years. Leading that list are Lipscomb (28), Cherokee (26), Knoxville Central (26), E.C.S. (26), Webb (25), Kingston (23) and White House (23). Friendship Christian, Hardin County, Lewis County, Lincoln County and U.S.J. have all had the same head coach for 21 years. More than two-dozen other schools have a head football coach who has been at the same school for 10 or more years.
But today, I would often struggle if asked to name a particular school's head football coach. Coaches are changing jobs faster than I can keep up with them. As little as three and four years ago, the number of coaching changes across the state usually was in the upper thirties, sometimes the lower forties.
This year, the movement of coaches from one school to another has reached epic proportions. Nearly 20 percent of the schools in Tennessee that field a football team have a new head coach in place this year.
Several of the changes were somewhat of a lateral nature. By that, I mean guys who were already head coaches at one school simply took a head coaching position at another school. These coaches generally moved to a larger school.
But the largest category on the coaching change list involves guys who this year became a head coach for the first time. Of the 65 schools with a different head coach in place, more than half (38) have a head football coach who holds that position for the first time.
Is this a concern? For many, the answer is yes. In a day when fewer and fewer young men choose coaching as a career choice, it worries me about the future of high school sports.Murphy Fair, a resident of Cannon County, has published Tennessee High School Football for the past 22 years. His website (murphyfair.com) gives high school fans further insight into the prep football scene.