— Tuesday morning update: Coahulla Creek High School officially has a new head football coach. The Whitfield County Board of Education this morning approved the hiring of Chad Barger.
After a whirlwind of nearly two months that saw Coahulla Creek High School go from firing the only football coach in its short history to facing an embarrassing situation after a high-profile coach walked away after the money he was promised disappeared, the program may have finally found its new head coach.
Former Sequatchie County (Tenn.) High School and current Clay County (Tenn.) High School head coach Chad Barger’s name is expected to be presented to the Whitfield County Board of Education this morning at a called meeting at 9:30. If the board approves, Barger will replace Jared Hamlin, who was fired by Coahulla Creek principal Stanley Stewart after the Colts went 2-8 this past season.
“The school and the area were the things that drew me to the job,” Barger said. “It is a beautiful place and the school and the facilities are top notch. It is a place where if you can get things going it can really be special, and I can’t wait for the chance to meet everyone.”
Barger plans on being at the school Thursday morning at 8 to meet with the team members and the current coaching staff. The school plans a meeting with parents and community members later the day, but details were not finalized Monday night.
Barger’s hiring — if approved by the board — would conclude a coaching search that would have seen three different coaches accepting the position.
Stewart had announced former South Pittsburg (Tenn.) High School coach Vic Grider as the new head coach at the football banquet in December, but Grider backed away from the job after a promised incentive package of money as well as coaching positions made by Stewart were taken off of the table by Superintendent Judy Gilreath on Dec. 13.
On Friday, Gretna (Va.) High School coach Kevin Saunders’ name was given to the central office after he was offered the job, but he did not clear the system’s vetting process which is similar to a background check.
Stewart declined to comment specifically on Saunders, who was one of three finalists for the job along with Barger and Shorter College offensive coordinator Tim Mathis, but Gilreath said, “We didn’t think that he was a good fit.”
Barger resigned from the head coaching position at Sequatchie County in November 2012 after compiling a 29-26 record in five seasons. He was 2-8 in his final season leading a program which had gone 1-19 in the two seasons before he took over. The Indians were 6-5 in his first season, and he led the school to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 13 years. He was also the head coach at Cannon County and took that program to its first winning season in 29 years. In his one season this past fall at Clay County, Barger’s team was 3-7. His overall record as a head coach is 43-53.
“The first thing is that he has taken over three programs — all of which have had losing records — and turned them into playoff teams,” Stewart said of Barger. “The second thing was that there were so many people who gave us solid recommendations on how well he works with the community and the kids. And he is a guy that really understands and appreciates the balance of athletics and academics.”
Barger said he hasn’t specifically sought out rebuilding jobs, but he doesn’t back down from the challenges they present.
“I have just sort of landed in those situations,” he said. “All we can do is go in and roll our sleeves up and work hard.”
Barger, 37, has ties nearby in Tennessee as his wife, Stacy, is originally from Sequatchie County. But Barger said the future for his daughters — Chloe, 13, and Hallie, 9 — played a big factor in deciding to come to Whitfield County.
“With the opportunities that they would have, that is a huge thing with me,” Barger said. “And my wife’s family is about an hour away. It seems like an ideal situation for us.”