CRESTVIEW — Crestview High School Principal Bob Jones announced today that Bulldog head football coach and athletic director Kevin Pettis has resigned to become head football coach at Sebastian River High School in Sebastian in Indian River County.
Pettis's last day at Crestview will be March 1.
"I am very sad that coach Pettis is leaving Crestview High," Jones said. "He has worked tirelessly and has made great strides in improving our football program. His work ethic and love for his players is admirable.
"As an old coach myself, (I've) come to appreciate what he does for his athletes. Last year, we had six players sign scholarships and we are going to have three more sign this year. He has pledged to me that, while he is still here, he will work to get the word out on next year's seniors since spring is an important time for recruiting."
Pettis finishes his tenure as the Crestview head coach with an 8-12 overall record and a 4-6 record in District 2-6A play. He also will have had nine players sign football scholarships as of Wednesday, National Signing Day. Six players from the 2011 team signed scholarships and three more are expected to sign Wednesday.
The opportunity to coach at Sebastian River was one Pettis didn't feel he could pass up.
"I guess the best way I can put it is I had an opportunity to go back down south where I did most of my coaching," he said. "I think Sebastian River is probably the best kept secret in the state of Florida.
"I've always had an eye on that area. They've got great athletes and there are only two schools in the county."
One of the things that made the job the most attractive to Pettis is it is a coaching-only job with no athletic director responsibilities.
"I like the part of just being a football coach," he said. "Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed the kids here in the other sports, but I like the fact that it's just football. (This decision) had nothing to do with the kids here.
"The kids are great and I love every one of my kids. I love all of my parents. I have great parents."
Pettis said some off-the-field issues that have surrounded the program since last summer factored into his decision to look for another job.
"The things that have gone on in this program for the last eight or nine months -- of course it played a part in it," he said. If everything was hunky dory then I would be staying here.
"When I decided to start looking, it was after the season. I just felt like it was the right time with everything that had gone on that I needed a change."
In addition to his duties of athletic director and head football coach, Pettis was going to coach the Bulldog softball team this year.
Jones said that Crestview volleyball and girls basketball coach Kathy Combest has agreed to take the softball team this spring. She will transition into the softball program when basketball season ends and work with Pettis until he leaves at the end of the month.
Jones has already begun the search for an athletic director and coach to replace Pettis.
"When he told me he was resigning, I immediately began shifting into the next gear, which is to start thinking about who our next coach is going to be," Jones said. "The position has been posted and we are going to immediately begin searching (for the next coach). I have some names in my head -- people that I'm going to contact just to see if they are interested in the program."
Jones said Crestview assistant principal Dexter Day has agreed to head the search committee.
"We'll be getting some people from the school, probably the district office and some community leaders familiar with our athletic program on that committee," Jones said. "And then they will be the ones that interview the people and make recommendations to me."
Two years ago, 125 coaches applied for the Crestview job when Matt Brunson left for Baker; Jones expects a similar response this time.
"This is a high-profile job," he said. "Any coaching job in Okaloosa County, because of the fact it is an athletic director and head football coach -- administrative position -- it pays very well, and it enables us to attract the best coaches.
Jones said a high priority will be placed on candidates with previous experience as a proven head coach and administrator, but he didn't rule out coaches without previous head-coaching experience.
"With the level of coaching we have in this county, we will have people apply that are proven head coaches with winning records just as we had when we hired coach Pettis, who was a proven head coach with a winning record," Jones said.
"Because they are athletic directors, too, we have to have somebody that is ready to step in and run the entire athletic program. One of the things I've been most impressed with about coach Pettis is the way he has been able to run our entire athletic program."
He would like to have a new coach and athletic director named by the end of the month.
Pettis said that his leaving is bittersweet.
"I do feel like I'm leaving with it unfinished," he said. "I never left a job that I didn't finish what I started. I think when you come up here from such great programs like Dr. Phillips and DeLand that we singlehandedly turned around that was rough when you come up here and think you are going to get the same type of magic and the same type of deal."
Although the Bulldogs failed to accomplish everything Pettis would have liked, he believes he leaves the program in good shape.
"Here's the one thing they can never take from us ... We got them strong," he said. "They are stronger than they have ever been and we got them some exposure. We got their names out there.
"We are going to sign three on Wednesday and that's going to give me nine in two years and that's not a bad number. I'm happy with that."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524