The process has begun for finding a new football coach for Winder-Barrow High School.
Coach David Wagner stepped down from his position Friday following a four-year run which resulted in a 3-37 record. Wagner was hired from Apalachee High School where he served for several seasons as defensive coordinator, including the team’s 2009 season in which it produced an undefeated regular season, a region trip and a trip to the state quarterfinals.
Wagner, as well as his assistant coaches and players, worked extremely hard for the last four years to make the WBHS program a success. No one can argue that. However, the question now is where does the program go from here?
What must be done to turn around a program which has not had a winning season since 2003.
Let’s examine a few items concerning the hiring process:
•The new hire should be someone with previous success as a head coach. Already names are being floated around about who might be interested. I’m not going to list anyone here based on rumors, but we will follow this process until it ends. The state of the program at WBHS is such that it is too big of a task for someone without previous head coaching experience.
•The new coach should be allowed complete control over his coaching staff. While this is true for some programs (successful ones usually), the new WBHS coach must be allowed to fill the assistant slots as he sees fit. There has been an issue in recent years of some coaching slots locally being left open for months or never filled at all. In order to be successful, the full allotment of assistants must be hired. A head coach at his level in Georgia cannot work without the maximum number of assistant coaches permitted.
•The new coach should be given at least five years to make it work. A state championship coach in Georgia once told me five years is the right number and I’ll go with his thinking on this. Wagner had four years, but some coaches before him have been given three or less. One coach did last six seasons but he then returned to the school he previously coached at (never a good sign for a program.)
•Look at waiving the athletic director rule. In Barrow County, an athletic director cannot coach. Top of the line football coaches in Georgia often carry the athletic director tag as well. You would be surprised at how many successful head coaches in the state would never apply due to Barrow County’s rule concerning coaching and being an athletic director. It’s something that needs to be changed. (It wasn’t always this way.)
•The new coach needs to be given the proper resources to be successful. Pay the coach a better supplement and allow quality supplements for the assistants. Coaches work seven days a week in most cases and should be properly reimbursed for their work. Do not hire a coach because he will accept low pay.
•Aim high. Just because an interested coach comes from a successful program, don’t shy away from hiring him because he has a list of things that would be necessary to be successful here.
•Let the coach do the coaching. It’s time for the coaches in the stands to fade to the background. The person who is hired as the new head coach will know more than you and doesn’t need your advice on what plays to call or what players to put in the game.
•The new coach needs to be willing to do whatever it takes to inject energy into the program. It’s often easier said than done, but years of non-success have taken their toll on the Bulldogg program. Winder and Barrow County have been through their share of bad news (in many areas) in recent years. A successful football program is just what the community needs. We saw how much it worked when Apalachee High School had its best season program history in 2009.
Chris Bridges is sports editor of the Barrow Journal. Send comments about this column to email@example.com.