Wood resigns from SF post
By: By MIKE HUTCHENS Messenger Sports Editor
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
On the heels of consecutive 1-9 seasons — one of those victories a forfeit — something seemingly had to give with the South Fulton football program.
It was Gwin Wood.
Wood begrudgingly resigned his head coaching post of the past 19 seasons Thursday, ultimately surrendering his duties after a meeting with Obion County Athletics Director Robert Powell and Director of Schools David Huss that SFHS principal Adam Stephens also attended.
“I resigned,” an emotional Wood told The Messenger after being allowed to inform his team of the decision later in the afternoon. “I really wanted to coach two more years, but they said I didn’t have any support here and they wanted to go in a different direction.
“I did resign, though.”
The 61-year-old Wood has been a part of both the good and bad times for a Red Devil program, though the most recent of seasons were on the bottom end of that spectrum.
SF has had just one winning season over the past six years and has won just nine of 40 games the last four seasons. The Redmen beat Ballard Memorial in their first game in the just-completed campaign, but lost nine straight afterward — half of those by lopsided margins in which the clock ran continuously, via the state’s 35-point mercy rule.
The Devils, who were outscored 41-12 on average this year and gave up over 400 yards per game, have not won a Region 7-1A game in two years.
Powell, who has been in his newly-created capacity just since July, commended Wood for his lengthy tenure at SFHS but then added that he did, indeed, feel that the program needed a change.
“I just feel that South Fulton needs a shot of adrenaline and a change of direction and I believe that’s needed now,” he said. “I didn’t think it was appropriate to sit on the decision, and I believe I handled it as graciously as it could be.”
Powell said no timetable had been set to name Wood’s successor but indicated the hiring process of the next Red Devil coach would begin immediately.
“We’ll give a few days for this to settle and heal, and then we’ll begin a search for the most qualified candidate for South Fulton High School,” he claimed. “We’ll advertise state-wide, regionally and locally, and my motivation will be to find someone who is interested in moving the program forward and get that person in place as quickly as possible.”
Though in the middle of a state-mandated three-week dead period that all schools adhere to following the completion of their season, Powell said he expects assistant coaches Chuck Seratt, Brent Wilson and Tommy Kelly to oversee the SF offseason strength and conditioning program when school resumes after the Thanksgiving holiday break — until a new coach is hired.
Wood, who coached 11 years (eight as a head coach) at Fulton City and has 33 years in all in the business, compiled an 88-114 record in his 19 seasons at South Fulton. His best seasons were in 1997, when the Redmen advanced to the Class 1A state quarterfinals, and in ’99 when SF went 10-2.
The Devils made the playoffs eight times during Wood’s tenure and had seven winning seasons.
The program went winless, though, in 1995, and seven times had three victories or fewer in a season.
“I’ve really enjoyed it here,” said an emotional Wood — stopping several times to regain his composure. “It’s been a blessing. I wish every coach had a chance to work at a school like this with the support we’ve had from the community and the booster club. We’ve gotten everything we’ve ever asked for in terms of assistance.
“The last three years, we haven’t had the number of quality athletes that we’ve had in the past. That’s been especially true in the speed department. We’ve had to play a lot of young kids because of an inordinate amount of injures and we’ve also been thrown into a pretty tough league classification-wise.”
The now ex-Red Devil skipper did say, however, he saw brighter days ahead for a program that will return 17 seniors next season — many with two years’ worth of starting experience.
“I think down the road, South Fulton will have a prominent team again,” predicted Wood, who has an overall coaching mark of 140-143.
Not with him at the helm though.
Wood will stay on as a teacher in the Obion County School System.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger on 11.16.07
Gwin Wood, resigns, South Fulton High School
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