By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Bob Dylan sang the times they are a-changin.’ Who knew the song was written about Hinton?
Just a little over a month since longtime Summers County basketball coach James Payne announced his retirement, the Bobcats athletic department will be searching for another new coach, this time for their football team.
The 2012 Register-Herald Football Coach of the Year Josh Houchins submitted his resignation earlier this week. Houchins also serves as principal for Summers County High School.
“The biggest reason I’m resigning, I’ve worked the last two years as the principal and football coach,” Houchins said. “It was neccesary for me to resign so I could put my full focus towards being the principal of the high school.”
Houchins has had success with Summers County in his three short seasons at the helm. After several years at the middle school level, he took over the Bobcats program ten days prior to the season when then head coach Leon Franklin left for an assistant job with Concord University.
In his first season, the Bobcats were winless. In 2011, the team improved, but narrowly missed the playoffs. 2012 saw the Bobcats improve to 7-3 and made the playoffs for the first time since 1995.
“I thought he did a great job balancing both positions,” Summers County athletic director and girls basketball coach Wayne Ryan said. “I know how difficult that is when you have two great responsibilities like that. I hate to lose him as our football coach.”
Houchins admits that a recent report from the West Virginia Department of Education labeling Summers County High School as a “priority school”, a school among the lowest five perfect of Title I schools based on achievement and a historical lack of progress over a three-year period.
“Our school is in need of a lot of changes to improve education,” Houchins said. “I didn’t feel like I needed to be the football coach when we have those changes that need to be made.”
Houchins insists he will still be a part of the football team moving forward, just in a different role.
“I’m resigning as head coach, but I’m still going to be very involved as a principal,” Houchins said. “I’ll be at the practices and games. I’m not leaving and going anywhere. I have a big vested interest in the program. I’m going to still be there and working with them.”
One area Houchins won’t be involved in will be hiring a new coach. While principals at other schools are generally involved in the process, Houchins will turn the search over to the board of education and Ryan.
“Coach Ryan normally does the process as far as hiring coaches goes,” Houchins said. “If one of my assistants apply for the job, it would be a difficult decision to make.”
It should be a quick turn around for the ‘Cats.
“The board has already taken action on the resignation,” Ryan said. “I expect the job to be posted on Monday. It’s open to all applicants and there will be limited teaching positions available. We’ll probably have some in-house guys who are interested. So we’ll let that process take place and then we’ll gt someone hired quickly.”
It will be an adjustment for the seniors on the upcoming Summers County team.
This group of kids, Josh has coached them since they were in middle schools,” Ryan said. “They have a lot of confidence in him. That played well for us. They’re going to play football without him for the first time in a long time.”
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.