published Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Marion County head football coach Mac McCurry resigns as scandal widens

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    Marion County head coach Mac McCurry instructs his offense. He resigned from the job on Wednesday.
    Photo by Robin Rudd.
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JASPER, Tenn. -- The Marion County football program was dealt another blow Wednesday morning when head coach Mac McCurry resigned amid a swarm of controversy involving the veteran coach and several of his assistants.

McCurry requested a meeting with Marion County Schools Superintendent Mark Griffith and high school Principal Larry Ziegler early Wednesday morning to discuss the future of the program. McCurry then told Griffith and Ziegler he felt it was in his best interest to separate himself from the program.

"When I saw the newspaper [Wednesday] morning, I had already pretty much made up my mind what needed to be done," Griffith said. "But coach McCurry resigned and in the interest of making it a quicker separation, we accepted his resignation."

Longtime assistant coach Larry Richards will serve as the Warriors interim coach Friday for their TSSAA Class 2A quarterfinal game at second-ranked Trousdale County. Richards began working as a Marion assistant in 1980 and has been coaching the middle school program the last two years.

"I told Mr. Ziegler that I would do whatever needed to be done for the kids," Richards said. "I'm not ashamed to say that Mr. Ziegler and I have shed tears over this since the news started coming out. I love this school and the kids here, and I just want us to rally around them and help them in any way."

A visibly shaken Ziegler said the events of the last week -- assistant coaches Michael Schmitt and Joe Dan Gudger arrested and charged with vandalizing the Warriors' fieldhouse, Gudger also was charged with illegal possession of alcohol on school property, and a third assistant, Tim Starkey, relieved of his duties after admitting to breaking into South Pittsburg's fieldhouse to steal play sheets, and the program self-reporting a second TSSAA violation under McCurry in the last two years -- all were weighing on him. Ziegler, a former Marion player who has taught at the school for 13 years and has been the principal for two years, admitted he felt partly responsible for the controversy because he had helped hire McCurry, despite the coach's checkered past.

"I'll be honest, I don't really know what to say," Ziegler said. "All of this happened on my watch, under my leadership, so I'm sitting here questioning myself as principal.

"We didn't see anything that would have been a big enough red flag not to hire Coach McCurry. The central office was made aware of some personal things in his past, but it was nothing that made us feel like we shouldn't hire him," he said.

McCurry, who leaves with a two-year record of 19-5 with the Warriors, is now 239-71 overall in his career, which included stops at Moore County, Marshall County and Ripley, Miss. McCurry was also hired to coach the Crockett County program in Alamo, Tenn., in early May 2010. However, that offer was withdrawn less than two weeks later, before he had officially taken over. According to one source who works in the Crockett County director of schools' office, McCurry was relieved of his duties there for reasons that included lying on his application about having no prior arrests. "We discovered he had a DUI on his record while he was coaching in Mississippi," the source said.

Former Crockett County director of schools Eddie Whitby told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal: "His coaching philosophy and personal approach to the coaching situation might not mesh with our program. We weren't sure he was going to mesh with some of the folks that have been here, the way he wanted to run the program, so we withdrew the offer."

McCurry also had a brief stint at Lakeview High in Campti, La., leaving less than a month into the 2010 season for "personal reasons." He worked as the defensive coordinator at Signal Mountain in 2011 before taking over at Marion County.

Recently, McCurry's name had surfaced as a potential candidate for the vacant North Jackson (Ala.) head coaching job. However, North Jackson Principal Sam Houston said McCurry was never a legitimate candidate and certainly wouldn't be interviewed in light of the recent revelations.

McCurry became Marion's seventh head coach in 16 years when he was hired in December 2011. According to Ziegler at the time, he was chosen from more than 70 applicants because, "He's a man of integrity and gave us his word he will be here for a while."

Contact staff writer Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293.

about Stephen Hargis...

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 ...

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