Bret McCormick’s thoughts on the Northwestern football head coaching vacancy
The Northwestern High School head football coaching position was finally listed on the Rock Hill school district web site Wednesday morning, 40 days after the 2017 season ended.
Northwestern athletic director Lauren West said Wednesday that the entire football program was analyzed during that time in a top to bottom review.
“The formula for success has not changed,” West said. “You got to have a strong offseason program, you have to have the right talent on the field, meaning that all the kids that should be playing football, most of them are playing football. And then from there, you’ve got to put those kids in position to be successful.”
West said she thought the Trojans had a good season defensively, but that changes needed to be made on the offensive side of the ball. She made it clear she wasn’t singling out players’ talent or specific coaches’ ability, just that this past season’s configuration wasn’t working.
It’s been a quiet month-plus since a difficult 2017 campaign wrapped up, but changes began to emerge the same day the head coaching job was publicly listed. Trojan offensive line coach Sam Mallard tweeted Wednesday morning that he had been relieved of his coaching duties.
Mallard tweeted: “I want to thank Coach David Pierce and @CoachHellams for allowing me to come to Northwestern and coach OL. As they prepare for next season they have decided to move in a different direction at OL. Good luck players as you move forward and if you ever need anything please ask!”
Changes in some form have been anticipated since the offseason began.
Former coach David Pierce was fired Sept. 19 five games into the season, along with offensive coordinator Robert Hellams, and defensive coordinator James Martin was named interim head coach. Northwestern rebounded, to a degree, winning five of its last seven games. The Trojans’ season ended in the second round of the playoffs with a loss to Gaffney on Nov. 10, and a 7-5 record.
The job listing seeks a teacher/head football coach, with five years of successful varsity football coaching experience preferred and S.C. teaching certification. The district’s salary offerings -- found here -- are based on teaching experience and educational degrees, plus a $7,415 supplement for head coaches. (The district’s coaching supplements are listed here.)
It will be interesting to see how many candidates apply. After former head coach Kyle Richardson left for a position on Clemson’s staff in 2016, Northwestern received a very limited number of applications because candidates were told they couldn’t bring in their own coaches, that the assistant coaching staff was already in place.
“We had one position open,” West said at the time, “and that was the head coaching position.”
Four candidates were interviewed, three of them Northwestern assistants, including Martin, before Pierce was chosen.
West expects assistant coaches currently on-staff will apply for the head job again. She didn’t speak specifically about Martin’s chances at the head job, but she said this about the mid-season transition that he oversaw: “I thought that the entire staff responded as well as I’ve ever seen a staff respond to adversity. And because of how well that staff responded I thought our kids responded. You never enter into a season anticipating things like that, but I cannot speak enough to the way that that entire staff responded.”
West didn’t reveal a specific timetable for naming a new coach but said she wants it to happen soon.
“I never want any of our programs idling,” she said. “So we need to hit the ground running.”