While a few area high school football programs already have finished spring practice, most are still several weeks away from trading offseason weights for preseason pads.
Three area programs have more pressing issues to deal with before they can turn the page toward spring practice as Brainerd, Rhea County and South Pittsburg are still looking to fill head coaching vacancies.
Brainerd likely is further along in the process than the other two as principal Uras Agee said a new coach could be in place as early as next week, but he added that the school is not rushing the process.
"We cut the list from 10 to about four and then to three and had each of those guys come in for a first interview just on academics," Agee said. "We called those same three guys back in for a second interview to just talk about football -- X's and O's, how you run a program -- and even had a couple of folks from the community come in and ask questions about how they would relate in the community.
"Now we're at the point where we are checking all their references and just doing our due diligence. It's been a long process -- we had guys from four different states apply -- but we want to make sure we do it right."
Agee said there would be several teaching positions coming open that could be used to hire new assistant coaches, and the new head coach will help choose his own staff.
Rhea County is still three days from the mandated 10-day wait to allow its coach opening to be advertised, after Doug Greene resigned to join the Ooltewah staff. Rhea County principal Jesse Messimer said the school would then be in a position to move forward and begin narrowing the list of candidates to those getting interviews.
"We have 45 applicants right now," Messimer said. "By Friday we can finally start going through the list and discuss who we want to bring in. If somebody stands out above all the others, we could move pretty quickly, but if we have a good list of several guys, we will take our time. It's not a matter of how quickly we move right now, because we want to find somebody who will settle in and be here for a while."
South Pittsburg's job unexpectedly came back open just last weekend when Ricky Ross informed Marion County schools superintendent Mark Griffith and athletic director Vic Grider he no longer would be in charge of the program, two months after taking the job.
Ross was not yet an employee of the Marion County school system, but Griffith said both Ross and his wife were guaranteed teaching jobs in the system beginning this fall. Ross had been Calhoun's defensive coordinator the last five seasons but confirmed that his old job there has already been filled. The two sides have different accounts for why Ross changed his mind, with Ross saying he was promised that his employment would begin March 1, while Grider said the only guarantee that was made was that Ross and his wife both had jobs secured by the start of the 2013-14 school year.
"The reason can't be over him not having a teaching position," Griffith said. "It's all about timing, but there are three teachers that are retiring after this school year, and Ricky and his wife both had guaranteed jobs. And those jobs were very secure.
"There was some confusion. [Ross] was really told he would be brought into the system on March 1, and this didn't happen. The administration at SPHS knew it couldn't happen. There needs to be some clarification on that on behalf of the Rosses."
Griffith and Grider met Tuesday to discuss the direction the school will take in its new search, and Grider confirmed he already had been contacted by several coaches since news broke Saturday night of the job opening.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...