Vidalia must hit on next coach

Published 12:01 am Sunday, December 22, 2013

Before he was a state champion at Trinity Episcopal Day School this past season, Michael Whitley was a three-year starter at Vidalia High School at quarterback.

But after three straight losing seasons, Whitley decided to head for greener pastures at Trinity — and he wasn’t the only Vidalia player to jump ship.

Lineman JoJo Vinson joined Whitley at Trinity, and all-purpose athlete Torrey Smith made his way to Adams County Christian School this fall, where he was one of the team’s standout athletes. Stewart Mallory, who was slated to take over at quarterback at Vidalia after Whitley’s departure, transferred to Trinity the week of Vidalia’s first game and made an impact on offense and defense.

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Trinity won a state title, and ACCS made it to the second round of the playoffs. Vidalia, meanwhile, finished the season 2-8. Less than 30 players were dressing out for the Vikings by the end of the season.

The Concordia Parish School Board announced Monday the resignation of Vidalia head football coach Gary Parnham Jr. In four seasons as the Vikings head coach, Parnham was 5-35. In the end, athletes either weren’t dressing out for football or were leaving Vidalia for somewhere else.

With such a tough record in recent history, the Concordia Parish School Board cannot afford to miss on its next head coach hire. Simply put, the board must do its due diligence and hire the best possible coach it can find.

It’s unfortunate that things didn’t work out with Parnham. In addition to being head coach for four years, he served as an assistant under longtime Vikings coach Dee Faircloth for 16 seasons. He’s a Vidalia native who played football at Vidalia High School, so he’s got an extensive history with the school and community.

Ultimately, though, football coaches are expected to produce wins. For whatever reason, wins didn’t come for Parnham.

But finding a winning formula is necessary for the next coach, because Vidalia cannot afford to keep losing students to other schools. Furthermore, it would be a shame if the school has a bunch of athletes continuing to not dress out, because they have no desire to play for a losing team.

The next hire needs to be a statement hire, a hire that says, “We take football and extracurricular activities seriously, and we’re going to provide our student-athletes with the opportunity to be a part of a strong program.”

The next coach needs to be able to look the athletes in the eye and say, “There’s no need for you to go elsewhere. You can win here.”

The Concordia Parish School Board must do its due diligence and hire the best possible coach it can. For a good example, look no further than Franklin County High School, which this week hired Anthony Hart as head football coach. Hart is a two-time state champion at the MHSAA Class 4A level who is certified in mathematics, physical education and administration.

In Hart, Franklin County got the best of both worlds. It got a football coach with a winning track record, as well as a teacher who could teach more than one subject and help with administrative duties.

Should fans demand Vidalia High School hire someone with state championships on his resume? That might be a tad bit unrealistic, but it certainly must hire someone that can bring excitement back to the Vikings’ program.

Otherwise, the CPSB can expect its athletes to continue to slip away, or simply go straight home after school lets out.