Despite a program hurt by seven miserable seasons and a talent base cut in half with the opening of a new school, the Murray County head football coaching position is proving popular with coaches from throughout the Southeast.
Murray County athletic director Greg Linder said more than 70 applicants have sent resumés in for the job with more expected before Friday when the school plans to close the application window.
“I am a little surprised at the number, but I feel like we have some advantages here,” said Linder, who is also the school’s boy’s basketball coach. “We feel like Murray County is a great place to live and raise children, and we have had a tradition of having a strong program in the past and we feel like we can get back to that level of football.”
One of the main things Linder and the selection committee the school will form to evaluate applicants will be keying on is longevity and commitment. The next coach will be the fifth coach in the past eight years with the last three coaches each lasting just two seasons as the head coach.
“The biggest challenge is going through the volume of resumés, and there are so many quality applicants to choose from and get the ones we want to interview,” Linder said. “That is the key for us. With all things, we don’t want to have to go halfway through this and end up having to do it again. We are taking our time, and we want to have someone for the long-term for our program.”
John Hammond resigned as head coach in mid-December after going 2-18 in two seasons with both of those wins coming on forfeitures by Dalton and Southeast Whitfield for the use of ineligible players in 2011. Murray was 0-10 for the third time in seven years in 2012.
According to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association (ghsfha.org), Bill Napier, currently coaching at Dalton High, was 94-78-1 with just five losing seasons in his 16 years leading the Indians. He resigned after an 0-10 season in 2006. Murray County has gone 7-63 in its last seven seasons. Josh Lowe, who followed Napier, was 1-19 in two seasons.
John Zeigler was 4-16 in his two seasons before Hammond, a long-time assistant coach at the school, was hired in March 2011. Participation has also been cut with the school system dividing with the opening of North Murray High in 2009.
“We are looking for guys who have built a program and can recruit our kids from the hallways and get them back on the field,” Linder said.
Linder said the application process will close on Jan. 25 and he and principal Gina Linder, the athletic director’s wife, will form a committee to interview applicants.
“We will be sorting through applications and deciding who we want to bring in and who will be a good fit for our program,” Greg Linder said. “We don’t have a set number that we will bring in for interviews. If it is five, we will interview five. If it is 10, we will interview 10. We are working on the committee but we haven’t narrowed it down yet.”
Linder said he hopes to have a new coach hired by the end of February. Area high school football teams will conduct spring workouts in April.