By Chris Whitfield
Jared Hamlin was the first coach hired at Coahulla Creek High School, and he’s the only leader the Colts football program has ever had.
But after three seasons of Hamlin building the program, the team’s future will soon be in someone else’s hands.
Hamlin was fired as football coach on Monday, three days after the Colts’ season ended with a 42-16 loss at Adairsville. Hamlin, who is a physical education teacher at the school, will continue as a teacher for the remainder of the 2013-2014 academic year, Principal Stanley Stewart said.
Rhett Parrott, the school’s athletic director, confirmed early Monday afternoon that the school was “going in another direction” but wouldn’t answer other questions at that time, saying the school system would release a statement. Whitfield County Schools sent out a brief press release headlined “New Playbook for Colts Next Year” later in the afternoon to announce Hamlin’s firing.
Later in the day, Stewart, Parrott and Whitfield County Schools Superintendent Judy Gilreath met with a reporter from The Daily Citizen at the school system’s central office. Stewart, who spent 12 years as principal at Westside Middle School before taking over at Coahulla Creek after Phillip Brown retired in May, said he is confident in his decision to remove Hamlin.
“I feel like I have listened to people, talked to Rhett, spent a lot of time going to practice,” Stewart said. “I felt like I made the decision based on the evidence I have seen. I feel very confident in the decision I have made.”
Coahulla Creek went 8-2 while playing a junior varsity schedule in 2011, the year the school opened. The Colts were 4-16 the past two years while playing varsity competition and didn’t make the playoffs either season.
Hamlin, a three-year letterman at Virginia Tech University from 1992 to 1994, was hired in March 2011 after seven seasons as the head coach at Florida’s Sebring High School. Messages left for Hamlin at the school, messages sent to his work email address and calls to his cellphone were not immediately returned.
The Colts finished this past season 2-8 overall and 1-6 in Region 5-3A. Coahulla Creek’s two wins came against Murray County and Gordon Central, which finished with a combined record of 1-19.
Stewart said wins and losses weren’t the only considerations in his decision.
“There are always a lot of factors involved,” Stewart said. “There are a lot of components to being a head coach of a sport more than what happens on game night. We looked at several things. We evaluated practices all throughout the year and attended all of the games. At the end of the season, I just felt that it was time to go in a different direction. I am very appreciative of everything Mr. Hamlin has done in starting the program. We just felt at this point we would go in a different direction.”
Stewart said he and Parrott are constantly evaluating the school’s athletic program and will continue to do so for all sports.
“For all of our programs, my definition for success is where, based on the talent level you have, you see player development,” Stewart said. “You want to see kids with the opportunity to get better week after week. That is why we try to attend all of the athletic events we can — either I am at them or Rhett is at them. We can look at that and make evaluations. We meet frequently to evaluate where we are athletically, and we want the very best that we can possibly have in teaching and coaching. We feel like it is an honor and a privilege to teach and coach at Coahulla Creek, and we want the best.”
Gilreath said she was told of the decision Monday morning. Parrott said he met with boosters Monday morning as well.
“We talked to some people close to the program this morning and let them know that the decision was made and what we were looking at going forward,” Parrott said. “It is a tough time for everyone. Coach Hamlin is a great guy. It is tough for everybody, but everybody understands the process.”
Stewart said he didn’t know if Hamlin will return next year as a teacher or seek a coaching position outside the system.
Stewart said he would like to make a hire as soon as possible. Whitfield County Schools pays head football coaches via a 12-month contract, with a $7,500 athletic supplement on top of their teaching salary.
“We have already started getting numerous applications,” Stewart said. “I would hope that maybe the first week of December for applications to be out there and then start narrowing it down. We will put together a panel. Myself and the athletic director have already started working on the panel, and all stakeholders will be represented. I would hope that we could do those interviews before Christmas break, but it is based on how many applications we get in.”
Stewart said other teaching jobs are expected to open for the 2014-2015 academic year at Coahulla Creek, so an incoming coach will be able to bring in other coaches.
“We feel that because of some people who have already decided not to return next year and with our first full class coming through next year, we hopefully gain some additional slots because of additional students to offer some slots for someone to bring people with them,” he said.