By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
At 8:45 a.m. on the morning of May 8, Summers County athletic director Wayne Ryan met with the three candidates for the head football coaching job left vacant in late April when Register-Herald Football Coach of the Year Josh Houchins unexpectedly resigned the post.
Houchins, who also serves as the school’s principal, had turned the search over to Ryan in hopes of finding a worthy successor, who would build on the momentum Houchins had established in 2012, when the Bobcats went 7-4 and made the playoffs for the first time since 1995.
After carefully examining the applicants, Ryan had made his decision.
“As directed by the superintendent, I interviewed all candidates for the job. The clear choice, based on his head coaching experience and his track record, was Norman Farley,” Ryan said in a prepared statement. “He had seven years of head coaching experience and is the only head football coach since 1986 to have a winning record in Summers County. He had good evaluations and proven discipline. He would have provided a seamless transition, as he had served as the offensive coordinator for the past two seasons.
“Having made my decision, I met with all the candidates individually and explained my choice, the justifications and what my recommendation would be.” Ryan’s statement continued. “Sure, there was some disappointment, but we (the three coaches and I) had a group meeting that was positive. Then a staff meeting was held without me. All coaches seemed to be on board, and we were moving forward.”
Ryan then submitted Farley’s name to Summers County Schools Superintendent, Vicki Hinerman as his recommendation for the job.
“I always agree with Mr. Ryan’s recommendations, because he is the person most knowledgeable about sports in Summers County,” Hinerman said. “He recommended Norman Farley. I recommended Norman Farley and didn’t receive a motion.”
Despite Farley’s years of experience in coaching, the board elected to go with 24-year-old assistant coach Nate Tanner.
“We had a veteran head coach and three quality assistant coaches,” Ryan’s statement added. “Then, when the board did not accept the recommendation, all that has changed and currently there is much turmoil in our community over this position.”
“I base my recommendations upon Coach Ryan’s knowledge and interviews,” Hinerman said. “Nothing against any of the three men being the head coach. I don’t want to cause any of them disappointment.”
As of right now, Tanner is the head coach of Summers County football. That could, however, change during a meeting scheduled for next Wednesday.
“Now, the board president (Sue Angell) wants an agenda item on next Wednesday’s agenda to discuss the situation,” Hinerman said.
“Really, there’s not a lot I can tell you right now,” Angell said in a phone interview. “There’s a lot of controversy. There were things that were discussed that shouldn’t have been, some outside sources that had some influence. I just want to get to the bottom of that.”
“I hold both (Farley and Tanner) in high esteem,” Ryan said in a phone interview. “It’s my duty to do everything I can to support my head coach. Regardless of who the head coach is, it’s the protocol that was followed that is the problem.”
Angell did, however, voice her support for Tanner.
“The one that we chose is a great choice,” Angell said.
Now, stuck between a rock and a hard place is the current coach, Tanner.
Tanner, is no stranger to the gridiron. He played four years as a starting receiver at Concord University and played in two Virginia state championships for Giles High School. He served on Houchins’ staff as co-offensive coordinator and focused on strength and conditioning.
Tanner chose not to speak about the hiring process or the possibility of being removed from the position.
“Honestly, all that I’m going to say right now is I am the coach,” he said.
But while controversy swirls, Tanner is doing his best to weather the storm and put together a staff. It is unknown at this time if any of Houchins’ assistants who were turned down for the head coaching position will remain on with Tanner.
“I do have some people in mind,” Tanner said. “I guess with the situation at hand, some stuff might be shaken up a little bit. There are some other folks from within the community that would be willing to help.”
It’s easy to forget, however, in these situations who is the most affected.
“Regardless of the final decision who the head football coach is, there has been much disharmony created, and none of it is in the best interest of our student athletes,” Ryan’s statement concluded.
— E-mail: jrollins
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins