This academic year, only two head football coaches were serving on the GHSA’s 68-member executive committee – Kevin Kinsler of Northside-Warner Robins and Ulysses Hawthorne of Beach. Both retired from their schools this off-season.
Blessed Trinity coach Tim McFarlin, one of the GHSFCA’s founders, said more and more football coaches have relinquished roles as athletic director and GHSA volunteers as their primary jobs have become more demanding. Football has become nearly a year-round sport while athletic directors are overseeing an increasing number of sports and sports teams.
“Just in the last 10 years, our plates [as head football coaches] have gotten too full,” McFarlin said. “Head football coach and athletic director are two full-time jobs. This is in no way a negative thing toward athletic directors. You want the best administrator in that role. But because of that, it’s up to us to take more responsibility for our sport. We’re just trying to make the sport better.”
Noland was part of a similar football coaches organization in North Carolina, his native state, while coaching there. Tennessee, Alabama and Texas have associations for their football coaches. Most still do not, or they operate under a broader group of all-sports coaches.
The Georgia Dugout Club has served a similar advocacy role for baseball and softball in the state. The Georgia High School Golf Coaches Association is another for its sport. But most other sports, including basketball, don’t have anything comparable in Georgia.
Noland said that the football group, which operates as a subsidiary of the all-sports Georgia Athletic Coaches Association, plans to kick off a membership drive on April 1. For $75, coaches will have membership in both the GHSFCA and the GACA, voting rights in the GHSFHA and $2 million in liability insurance.
The February coaching clinic brought in successful Georgia coaches, some current, some former, such as John Reid of Rome, Dexter Wood of Buford, Paul Etheridge of Marist and Jeff Herron, now of Tennessee Tech. College coaches from Mercer and Samford also attended and spoke.
Coincidentally, McFarlin and Noland were opposing coaches in the Class AAAA championship game that Blessed Trinity won last season. The two had been working on the coaches organization and building a friendship for long before that.
But their experience in the finals reinforced their idea that football coaches need more say. Neither of their schools made the money they expected for their schools, partly because of an attendance drop of 39 percent — to 28,011 from 45,605 — from the previous season.
Rain was a culprit, as the GHSA moved outdoors to less expensive Georgia State Stadium from the indoor Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Neither Noland or McFarlin has an official position on the ideal host site or the financial distribution, but they agree it’s an example of an issue that football coaches want to influence.
“These high schools deserve the opportunity to make as much money as they can when they have a state-championship opportunity,” McFarlin said. “There is a real concern about the diminishing payout. The percentage going to schools is less and less, and we have to address that. These are personal issues with me, not our organization, but these are the kinds of discussions we’re having.”
And those concerns are better expressed as a united group than as a single coach, both agreed.
“If we wanted to add five days of spring football practice — that’s not something that’s been discussed; I’m just giving an example — but if we could go to the GHSA and say the GHSFCA voted unanimously to endorse extending spring football to 15 days, then they’d know how strongly we felt about something,” Noland said. “We’re trying to get a stronger voice for our game.”