Originally created 01/19/99

Welsh may return to coach Thomson



THOMSON, Ga. -- Luther Welsh, who led Thomson to Class AAA high school championships in 1984 and 1985, is expected to be renamed the Thomson head football coach today.

School officials are scheduled to name a new coach at today's 6 p.m., McDuffie County School Board meeting. At that time, Welsh should be named head football coach and athletic director.

"I might; I'm thinking about it," Welsh said when contacted on Monday about the Thomson job. "I'll make that decision in the morning."

Welsh, 66, previously coached at the school from 1984-1991, helping build the Bulldogs into one of the top programs in the Augusta area, winning five region titles in seven seasons. He has spent the previous three seasons at Screven County in Sylvania.

He won the Region 2-AA title this season and defeated Jackson in the first round of the state playoffs before falling to Brooks County in the second round. In 1997, he failed to make the playoffs, but in 1996, the Gamecocks went 8-4 and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs.

"I don't know of anything else better to do," Welsh said. "That's why I stay in it. I couldn't sit around and do nothing; I'd go crazy."

Welsh replaces Butch Jacobs, who was fired earlier this season after serving as the Bulldogs' head coach for the past six seasons. Thomson missed the playoffs for the first time since the 1981 season.

The hiring of Welsh ends a nearly two-month search for a new football coach. Some of the state's notable candidates, including Irwin County's Ross New and Tift County's Charles Winslette, were among those who interviewed for the position.

One reason the Thomson job was so appealing to Welsh is that he has a daughter, Andrea, and a granddaughter, who live in Thomson.

However, one major drawback may be Welsh's age. He turns age 67 on June 25.

"I guess I'll slow down when I die," he said. "But I'm not planning on slowing down anytime soon. Since I got in (coaching), I figured I would go at it until I'm about 70. I figured after I go about four or five more years, I'll let somebody else have it."

One of the biggest questions now is who will replace Welsh at Screven County. According to a source close to the school, the front-runner appears to be former Screven head coach Chuck Conley, who has been at Gainesville for the past three seasons. Conley helped the Gamecocks to a Class AA state runner-up finish in 1994.

Other candidates include Screven County assistant coach Mark Daniel, Gainesville assistant and former Screven assistant Terry Canup and West Laurens coach Tim Dixon.

Welsh has served as head coach of Dougherty High in Albany, Thomson, Camden County, Greene-Taliaferro, Maysville, S.C., and Screven County. He has a career record of 232-143-4 and is 19th on the state's all-time win list. He is the seventh-winningest active coach. In addition, he has served as an assistant coach at Sumter, S.C., Albany, Crisp County and Warner Robins.

He was originally hired on Feb. 8, 1984 as the Bulldogs' athletic director and head football coach, winning back-to-back state titles during his first two seasons as head coach of the school. The Bulldogs were led by running back Jerry Mays, who would go on to star at Georgia Tech.

He is no stranger to winning, building powerful football programs everywhere he's been. In his 15 seasons at Dougherty, he led the school to its first region championship in 1976. Until this season, when it won the Class AAA state title, that stood as the Trojans' only region championship.

Tim Morse covers high school sports for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at 706-823-3216.