December 9, 2013

Secret is out: Coahulla Creek chooses Grider as coach

Chris Whitfield

— Former South Pittsburg (Tenn.) High School head coach Vic Grider has been named the new football coach at Coahulla Creek, pending approval by the school board. Grider was introduced to the team and fans at the conclusion of Monday night’s football banquet at the school.

Grider, who becomes the most experienced head coach in the area, replaces Jared Hamlin, who was fired by school principal Stanley Stewart on Nov. 11.

“I am excited to be here and excited about the possibilities more than anything,” Grider said. “I had a good feeling about this from the beginning and the direction it was heading and the commitment from the administration. It was obvious they wanted to do something special in football.”

In Grider, the Colts are getting a coaching pedigree, a proven winner and a coach with a lot of rings.

Grider served as the head coach of the Pirates for 16 seasons, taking over the head coaching position from his father Don Grider, who won 192 games as South Pittsburg’s head coach from 1969-1992. The younger Grider, who coached for 23 years at South Pittsburg after graduating from the school, resigned from his position in 2012 after compiling a record of 162-43 with three Class 1A state championships and five trips to the state championship game. He remained with the school as athletic director.

According to Stewart, who made the announcement at the banquet, the Whitfield Board of Education met Monday morning and “voted and approved your new head coach.” But school board member Tony Stanley, reached late Monday evening, said, “We didn’t have a meeting today. He’ll actually be voted on — not until January. At the January meeting.”

Stanley added, “To be honest, I’m not really sure (why anyone would say he’s hired). I guess he’s hired pending our approval.”

Stanley said board members “haven’t been together since our last meeting (on Dec. 2). I think they have found someone they want to hire. But again ... they’ll be presenting it at the next meeting for our vote.”

“On our prioritized list, he was No. 1,” Stewart said of Grider. “It wasn’t easy. We have been working for weeks to try and get this done, but it has paid off. We are excited about what he will bring to this school and give our kids a chance to reach some dreams they have got.”

The announcement of Grider’s hiring came after apparent stonewalling by Whitfield County Schools officials on numerous requests for updates on the hiring process by Daily Citizen reporters. Coahulla Creek athletic director Rhett Parrott was asked last Wednesday by a reporter whether any hire would be made in the next three business days as the paper was making a request on the number of applicants under Georgia’s Open Records laws. Leading up to Wednesday, school officials had not released the list of applicants, did not say if the position’s window for applicants had closed or provided the number of applicants, necessitating the Open Records request.

Parrott was also asked on Wednesday if the school had made offers to any candidates. Parrott replied that the interview process was still ongoing and that no offers had been made.

According to Stewart and Grider, Grider turned down the position when it was offered on Monday, Dec. 2, two days before Parrott said no offers had been made.

In records made available on Monday by Whitfield County Schools communications director Eric Beavers approximately 30 minutes before the close of the central office, Grider was listed as one of the 36 applicants for the job, but his was one of several resumes that were not included.

Beavers sent a press release by email titled “Coahulla Creek High School names football coach to lead Colts” more than an hour-and-a-half after the central office closed on Monday evening.

According to Josue Dominguez, a sophomore on the football team who was part of a 15-member interview panel selected by the school, four finalists were brought before the panel. Along with Grider, the other finalists were Hixson (Tenn.) High School coach Jason Fitzgerald, Forsyth Central assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Travis Ellington and Coahulla Creek assistant coach Chip Fleming. According to sources within Whitfield County Schools and outside of the school system, Fitzgerald also turned down the position when offered the job. Attempts to reach Fitzgerald were unsuccessful.

“(Grider) definitely stood out from the other guys that were brought before us,” Dominguez said. “He and coach Fitzgerald really brought the most to the table. I am excited and kind of nervous about it too. I think that we are going to turn things around with him on the sidelines.”

Staff writer Christopher Smith contributed to this story.