Originally created 02/23/01

High schools vie for coach

Franklin County High School is trying to lure Lincoln County's Larry Campbell to become its next head football coach.

Mr. Campbell, the winningest active coach in Georgia, will decide today whether to leave Lincoln County to take a similar position at Franklin County, a Class AAA school in northeast Georgia.

The decision isn't an easy one for Mr. Campbell, who never formally applied for the job. He has won nine state championships and 24 region titles and has compiled a 337-51-3 record in 29 seasons at Lincoln County, a Class A school.

He declined to comment on the position Thursday, saying "it's just pure speculation."

The 52-year old officially retired from teaching last year, but remained as the football coach and athletic director. According to sources close to Franklin County, Mr. Campbell wouldn't make any additional money at the Carnesville school.

Franklin County school Superintendent Leland Dishman did not return telephone calls left Thursday by The Augusta Chronicle, but a story in The Anderson Independent-Mail on Wednesday reported Mr. Dishman's desire to bring Mr. Campbell in to replace retired coach Jeff Davis.

"Football coach is always a critical hire," Mr. Dishman told The Anderson Independent-Mail."Our expectation is for a person to come in and maintain the level that we have and start rebuilding a winning tradition at the high school, the middle schools and the elementary schools."

The school had 42 applicants for the job, and a panel winnowed the list down to five candidates earlier this week. Mr. Dishman said he's met with Mr. Campbell twice.

The Franklin County school board will meet March 8, and Mr. Dishman said he hopes to present a candidate then.

Mr. Campbell, who was inducted into the National High School Federation's Hall of Fame last summer, needs 12 victories to break Lincolnton native Dan Pitts' state record of 346 victories.

Several of Mr. Campbell's assistant coaches are hoping the legendary coach will finish his career in Lincolnton.

"I think it would be a big blow to all of us," said Lincoln County High's baseball coach Billy Beale, who has coached with Mr. Campbell for the past 17 seasons.

"I also would hate to see him break that record coaching another team."

Glen Hardeman, who has coached linebackers and special teams for the past 13 years, agreed.

"It would hurt me to see him make that decision from a personal standout, but more importantly as an athletic program as a whole," Mr. Hardeman said. "I think he's been the guiding force here for so long. I had, selfishly, hoped he would be here until I was ready to retire, but I respect whatever he decides to do."

Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216 or timmorse@augustachronicle.com.


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