Thursday, November 29, 2012
(Last modified: 2012-11-29 15:28:45)
Author: Seth Butler
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

NEWPORT-Mess. Shock. Tough.

Those were three prevailing words from Cocke County High School football players on Tuesday, in the wake of Fighting Cocks football coach Greg Hacker resigning the day before.

Hacker, who compiled a 9-22 record in three seasons, resigned on Monday. Sources say that the resignation came after he was faced with an imminent, looming termination of his coaching position in a meeting with school officials on Monday, which Hacker revealed to the team in a Tuesday meeting.

The decision left players in shock, anger and disbelief.

"There really was no reason for him to be fired," Cocke County High School junior Dylan Dockery said. "Our program was going in a great direction. Everybody was doing great things and doing well.

"For this to happen to our program, very unexpectedly, is not very professional," Dockery said. "It seems our administration wants to take steps back."

The prevailing question among players was why school officials had determined to go in a different direction. They thought that the program, which had won eight games over the course of the past two seasons, had placed them on solid footing. Cocke County had won eight games from 2004 through 2009, just before Hacker arrived to coach the Fighting Cocks.

"I don't understand how we can be going in the right direction and the (administration) wants to go in a different direction," lineman Jonah Freeman said. "We are already going in the right direction."

For players, who have just completed their senior seasons under two different head coaches it's a puzzling decision.

"I don't think it's right that he can do all these good things - have a winning season and another good season and they ask him to leave," senior Rusty Shehee said. "It doesn't make sense to me."

The improvement was even evident to newcomers to the high school level. Sophomore Clint Ramsey said he was impressed at where the team had came from what he saw before he entered high school, to what the performance level is currently.

"I saw a lot of improvements," Ramsey said. "I used to come watch the team play and remember reading about when Coach Hacker came and I was excited.

"We've improved. I feel like I improved as a player and felt like he helped me and he cared about me. I think it's going to be tough on us (going forward)," Ramsey said.

Shehee thought that things could've possibly worked out better had the team's coaching staff been on the same page. In three years in Newport, Hacker did not hire one assistant coach on staff. He inherited the previous staff from former head coach Casey Kelley and then had three more assistant coaches hired for him in the spring of 2010.

"It's hard to coach a team when your assistant coaches don't back you at all, that don't show up to practice," Shehee said.

The players also painted a picture of a coach that cared about them as individuals, from purchasing equipment for players to pregame meals out of his pocket.

"He paid for more stuff out of his own pocket than any coach should," senior Dakota McGaha said.

"He paid for Subway on Friday's out of his own pocket because the school wouldn't."

McGaha, who thrived as a 1,000 yard passer in two seasons as the starting quarterback at Cocke County High, thought that Hacker was the best coach he's played for.

"He's the best coach that's came through here since I've been here," McGaha said. "It's not very smart to get rid off the best coach this program has had in 12 years without a decent reason."

McGaha was also concerned about the potential lost recruiting with Hacker no longer in charge of the football program. Four Cocke County High School players declared collegiate football intentions in February of 2012.

"I feel for the guys you've got left," McGaha said. "You've got three potential (NCAA Division I recruits) kids in (Dylan) Dockery, Sam (Gunn) and DJ (Haney).

"Making a coaching change their senior year could ruin it all for them," McGaha said.

Ramsey said it would be challenging, even for upcoming juniors to adjust and thrive under a new

"Its going to be tough," Ramsey said. "I just got used to the offense and started getting in the flow of learning a complex system, but it's a system that works.

"There were a lot of sophomores on the field last year and now we'll have to learn a different thing," Ramsey said. "It is going to be tough."

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