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March 16, 2012

Southeast boots head football coach

DALTON — Southeast Whitfield’s coaching couple, David and Elizabeth Crane, have been relieved of their athletic duties by new principal Karey Williams.

Raiders football coach David Crane and his wife Elizabeth, the school’s girls basketball coach, were given the option to resign by Williams this week, but both declined to do so. Williams is expected to submit their names for termination at the next Whitfield County Schools board meeting on March 26.

“I had the option to resign, but (Williams) will have to take my name before the board to be terminated,” David Crane said when reached by phone Thursday afternoon. “I am not going to resign. My main reason for not resigning is that I am not going to hide. I am not going to quit on those boys.”

David Crane said he met with Williams and Whitfield County School Superintendent Danny Hayes on Monday morning and was asked to give his resignation. Elizabeth Crane, who was not at school on Monday or Tuesday while she tended to her mother after surgery in South Carolina, had a similar meeting with Williams when she returned to school on Wednesday.

Southeast athletic director Scott Ramsey was not involved in either meeting, the Cranes said. Phone messages left for Hayes, Ramsey and Williams on Thursday evening were not returned.

Williams took over as the school’s principal on Jan. 6, filling the vacancy after Brian Satterfield retired earlier this school year. She was previously an assistant principal at Northwest Whitfield.

Southeast Quarterback Club president Gary Keeble said the decision caught him off guard as well.

“I was surprised with the timing, and I am disappointed that he isn’t going to be our coach,” Keeble said. “I am a big supporter of these boys out here, and I will work hard with whoever is the next coach as well. David is a good man, and I only hope the best for him and Elizabeth.”

Both David, who holds teaching certificates in special education and physical education, and Elizabeth, a general science degree holder who teaches Advanced Placement biology, will have teaching positions in Whitfield County Schools next year, but they will be assigned to schools other than Southeast.

According to open.georgia.gov, the state’s public information website, David Crane’s salary for this year is $70,857, while Elizabeth Crane’s is $51,709.

Like the firing of North Murray football coach Larry Cornelius less than two weeks ago, the timing of the removal of David Crane is surprising. Spring football practice is scheduled to begin in less than two months, and most football coaching changes occur closer to the end of the fall season.  

“The timing is not good,” said David Crane, who has been the Raiders’ football coach for the past four seasons. “The only reason (Williams) gave me was she wanted to go in a different direction. She wasn’t any more specific than that. Mr. Hayes mentioned he had been approached a couple of weeks ago. One of the things as far as the timing is that we have had multiple issues and multiple meetings in previous weeks.

“The only thing she alluded to was she said that she didn’t feel like enough had been going on from the end of last year to now. We have been doing all of the offseason things (workouts and conditioning) that we can do outside of actually practicing.”

David Crane said he had recently made changes to the coaching staff, changes he said he had made with Williams’ input after several earlier meetings.

“We had a big meeting with the boys two weeks ago, and I cannot go from doing that to say I am quitting or resigning or giving up on those boys,” David Crane said. “Nobody wanted to win more football games than I did. On the field, we have won 10 games over the last four years. The participation has gone up and the program is headed in the right direction.”

In four years at Southeast, David Crane’s record is 8-32 with two wins taken away from the team this past year because of the use of an ineligible player. The 2009 Raiders were 5-5, completing the school’s first non-losing football season since 1992. According to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association website, the school has an overall football record of 111-259-1 for a winning percentage of just 30 percent.

In the 10 previous seasons before David Crane’s arrival, Southeast football teams were 15-85. The next coach will be the 13th to lead the program since its first season in 1975.

“When I got here, the booster club was $20,000 in debt and we have worked to turned that around,” he said. “Corporate sponsorships are up to around 30 now from about half of that when I got here. I think a lot of progress has been made. We had less than 40 players on my first team and we had 88 last year. That first year, we had 11 guys in summer school trying to get eligible, and this past summer it was only two. I think we have made a lot of progress, and I think the product on the field is as competitive as they have been in a real long time.”

David Crane had not met with his team and told them of the firing when he was reached in South Carolina by The Daily Citizen. He and his family are there to celebrate the induction of Elizabeth Crane’s mother into the South Carolina prep coaches hall of fame after she coached one school for 36 years.

“I appreciate the efforts of those boys for the last four years,” he said. “These kids have meant so much. We haven’t always had the best athletes, but I can assure you those boys have worked harder than any group of athletes I have ever had the pleasure to be associated with.”

On the basketball court, Elizabeth Crane took the Lady Raiders to the state tournament in her first season and compiled a record of 32-39 in three seasons. That number includes this past season, when the Lady Raiders returned just one starter and struggled to a 1-25 record.

“We have had some success, and I have been truly blessed to be around some tremendous athletes and some very high-character girls,” said Elizabeth Crane, who also served as the school’s softball coach for the 2009 season. “They work hard and know the game. They will have a lot of success, but it will take some time to rebuild after you graduate so many four-year starters.”

Not interacting with their athletes on a personal basis will be what both coaches will miss the most, she said.

“The hardest part for me is those girls have formed a great relationship with my kids,” Elizabeth Crane said, “and I am very appreciative to them for loving my children the way they and the football players have.”

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