CRESTVIEW — The search for the next head football coach and athletic director to replace Kevin Pettis, who resigned on January 31, is in full swing as the 10-person search committee met for the first time last week.
Crestview assistant principal Dexter Day, who is the chairman of the search committee, confirmed that Pettis is no longer at the school and that his last day at Crestview was Friday.
"I just think in talking with the district -- and this is just my thoughts on it -- it was time for us to move in a different direction and get things started on a new foot here," Day said of Pettis' departure. "Right now acting the athletic director and head football coach is Chris Sweatt. Chris Sweatt is stepping in and doing the class for weight lifting and things like that. As far as athletic director, we have the two assistant athletic directors; Kelly Hayes and Jay Sanders doing those things.
"It is what it is and we are searching for a new head football coach. It (the job opening) has been posted on the Florida High School Activity Association website. Right now I have between 30 and 40 applicants already and they keep coming in."
Day said it seemed as if he was getting a new resume via email every 10 minutes.
"It will stay posted at least four or five days on the (FHSAA) website," he said. "We will close it out this Thursday. And then all the committee members will get their (the coaching candidates') resumes on Friday and take them home to look over them over the long weekend.
"We are supposed to meet back again on the 19th at 7:30 (p.m.) and start narrowing down the field and getting our group together that we want to interview."
Search committee won't rush decision
Search committee members are Day, Chris Moore, Dale Rice, Kathy Combest, Scott Lee, Jay Sanders, John Edwards, Marcus Chambers, Nick Kootsouradis, Andy Johnson, Joann Durm and Jeff Bufkin.
When Pettis announced his resignation Crestview principal Bob Jones said he hoped to have a new coach in place by March 1st. That goal might still be possible, but the committee isn't going to rush the process, Day said.
"If we close it (the application process) out the 14th (of February) and come back on the 19th it's going to be hard for us to get somebody in here by March 1st" Day said. "We are not going to push this thing. We are going to call and check references and do a little research into this thing and make sure we get a person that is right for the job.
"What we all want is somebody that's got character. Mary Beth Jackson, our superintendent said this before, and I believe it too, ''When you hire for character and work ethic you can teach them anything.'"
That doesn't mean that someone with great character and a lousy football background will get the job.
"I'm not saying we are just going to hire somebody for character and them not know anything about football, that's not it," Day said. "We want character and we want commitment. We want somebody that is going to come in here and mold our kids in a way that they will go on and have a future, not just in football, but in the community and the world and teach them those moral and ethical values and things like being on time and being committed and a work ethic and things of that nature."
Candidate must attract attention
The person hired must be able to promote the Bulldog players from all sports in a way that they will receive attention that, if they have the talent, will allow them to earn an athletic scholarship.
Day also stressed the importance of winning.
"You have to have a winning program," he said. "And you have to find that fine line of playing some tough games that will get you ready for your district and then throwing in some games too that will help you out in your winning percentage.
"We are just looking for that guy that is going to come in here and challenge these kids and motivate these kids to be the best they can be and to be the best team they can be."
Day, who was a finalist for the job two years ago when Pettis was hired, said that while he still misses coaching, competing and molding young men on the football field, he has entered a new chapter in his life.
"Right now it's not out of my blood by any means, but I've just got my sights on different things," he said. "That (coaching) is in the past. I was disappointed (not getting the job in 2011).
"I wasn't disappointed in anybody or anything, I was just disappointed that I didn't get the job, but I still came back here and did my job and am going to go on to the next phase of my life."
Day said he expects at least two or three members of the current Bulldog staff to apply for the job and that a lack of experience as a head coach might not prevent the right person from getting the job.
"You want the people on your staff to move up if they want to be a head coach one day," he said. "I told my staff at Davidson I would hope that y'all would want to be a head coach one day.
"Two of the three; Chris Small and Chris Sweatt were at the middle school level. I would want them (current assistants) to come and apply for the job."
OkaloosaCountyrequires applicants to have three years coaching experience, which could be as assistant coach, and they have their teaching certificate.
As for the age of the next coach, Day is open to that as well.
"I don't think there's pretty much an age limit," he said. "We aren't going to take anybody in a convalescent home or anything like that, who is that old.
"It's the committee that brings forth the names for that person that is going to be selected. I think it's going to be good. I think we are going to have a lot of wide array of different style of coaches and stuff."
Day did say a seasoned or veteran coach would probably be a better fit for the job though.
"I'm not saying a young man can't do it, but you have to have some wisdom in working with these young boys and have some time spent in the field doing some work with them," Day said. "You can't just come in here and be a first year coach and expect to get this job, I don't think."
'We want the best'
Day said the bottom line is finding the best coach for the young men that play football for Crestview.
"We want the best for these kids," he said. "I want to get the person in here that will build this program so people will want to come.
"I'm not talking about recruiting, winning recruits. People want to be around winners, that's just all there is to it. I want a program where parents will feel safe that their kid is going to come up here and get quality coaching and have a good experience."
The toughest part of the process will be determining if a coach has the character he and the committee are looking for.
"Yow do you ask the question and determine the character of that person?" Day asked. "Is it a dog and pony show when they come in there and tell us what they want to hear?
"I think the biggest thing is looking at references too and researching these people and looking at them a little bit. Crestview has so much potential if we bring the right person in and hopefully we can get that job done."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524