Originally created 11/17/06

Burke County coach let go



Burke County is in the market for a new head football coach. The Bears are hiring.

There's one thing the want ad won't have to mention. Their next coach will be expected to win championships and make the playoffs.

That's the perception of coach Steve Summers, who learned Wednesday he would not be back for a sixth year as head coach.

The Burke County Board of Education decided in an executive session Tuesday he would not return after a 6-4 record. Summers had one losing season and made the playoffs in 2002. He had won 20 games over the past three years.

"I was told the program hasn't excelled the way it is expected to the last five years," said Summers, who teaches math at the school. "But let's look at numbers. The overall winning percentage at the school is 64 percent. The team went 10-1 in 1991 and 13-2 in 1997. Take out those years and the win percentage is 61 percent. My win percentage is now at 59 percent."

Summers went 30-21, and his five years matched the longest tenure in team history. He also spent another four years serving as the offensive coordinator from 1996-1998 and in 2001.

The Bears had two returning starters on defense and four on offense. Summers never once said this was a rebuilding year.

His biggest win was a 24-21 victory at Thomson in 2004.

"He was a good coach who always had good teams when we played," Thomson coach Luther Welsh said. "I guess his community didn't feel he was winning enough. I guess they wanted him to win like the teams at Thomson and Washington County."

Summers called a few board members Wednesday seeking an exact answer for his removal.

"I couldn't get a straight answer," he said. "One of them finally said it probably had to do with the fact we didn't win championships. I pointed out the fact that Burke County has only won two region championships in 21 years of playing football."

Burke County Schools spokesperson Molly Banks said voting for Summers' removal was unanimous.

"Since I've been here we've set 36 new school records with our team," Summers said. "If we had won the Liberty County or the South Effingham game this year we wouldn't be talking about getting fired. We'd be in the playoffs. There were 27 kids out for spring practice when I got here. There was 80-something at spring practice this year."

The office of Burke County superintendent Linda Bailey e-mailed a prepared statement.

"Our school system respects Steve Summers as a teacher and a coach," the statement read. "The level of commitment displayed by Coach Summers during his five-year tenure as our head football coach has been appreciated. This decision was made to move our football program to the next level."

There was one final irritation about the matter from Summers. "This decision was made by the superintendent and school board alone," he said. "There was no input from my principal or my athletics director. I still had the full support of both my principal and athletics director."