Carolina Forest may very well hit the four-month mark without a head football coach.
The threshold, which would be next Tuesday, is starting to look like a very real possibility. Principal Gaye Driggers is at an out-of-state conference for the majority of this week, and she had not submitted her choice to Horry County Schools for a final human resources check as of Monday.
The district has stuck with its protocol and allowed Carolina Forest the autonomy to make its own decision regarding the opening.
“The fact of the matter is the principal is in charge of running that school,” said Daryl Brown, the executive director of student affairs for Horry County Schools and a former principal at three area high schools. “I don’t think that would be a good decision on our part. If you start doing that with one school, you have to do that with all schools. And that’s not a good thing.”
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Brown said he has stayed “in the loop” with Driggers throughout the process. He said as far as the district is concerned, Carolina Forest is still deciding between the three finalists Horry County Schools announced on Feb. 20 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
Two of the men, Daniel assistant Troy Bowe and Carvers Bay head coach Nate Thompson, told The Sun News they were informed by that point they would not be getting the job, and neither has been re-contacted by the school since. That left Cleveland (N.C.) head coach Marc Morris.
Morris has had at least three in-person interviews with the school, although he has yet to officially accept the position.
“I’m still in the consideration for the job,” Morris said Monday. “Hopefully they’ll finalize who they want soon.”
Even if Morris is ultimately named the Panthers’ next head coach, the search at Carolina Forest has been in stark contrast to the timeline employed by the other Horry County School with a current football opening, not to mention several other larger jobs around the state.
St. James posted its opening just two days after Mark Fischer resigned to take his old position at Louisa County (Va.) on Feb. 11. In just two weeks, St. James had already accumulated 55-60 official applications, according to Sharks Athletics Director Paula Lee.
There were some built-in delays associated with Carolina Forest’s search. For starters, the administration did not post its position until nearly a month after Drew Hummel resigned.
The school elected to wait until after the end of the state football playoffs in order to boost the application pool from coaches still participating in the postseason. The administration also had the holidays and two weeks of ice delays factored into its search.
Regardless, it has still taken nearly four months to get to where the search is today.
Meanwhile, fellow South Carolina Class AAAA programs Greenwood, Lancaster, T.L. Hanna and Westside and soon-to-be AAAA program James Island have all announced replacements for coaches who resigned or were not retained around the same time Hummel stepped down at Carolina Forest. A number of schools in smaller classes have also filled head coaching openings for football since the end of the 2013 season.
Many of them expedited the process because of a new South Carolina High School League policy that allows for increased offseason condition and on-field work. Outside of certain restricted dates pertaining to the start of other sports seasons, football teams can use more time between December and May for non-contact drills.
That leads to another important question for a Carolina Forest team looking to find its way in the state’s largest classification: Who exactly is in charge of the Panthers while the administration looks for Drew Hummel’s replacement?
Answers to that question have also been difficult to come by.
On Monday – for the first time since Hummel resigned on Nov. 11 – Driggers returned a phone message from The Sun News seeking comment.
However, Driggers said she would not speak about the search or answer any related questions until it was completed. When reached Monday, Athletics Director Boe Rainbow asked to be called back later in the day, but did not respond to a message left on his office line. Rainbow has referred most questions throughout the search to Driggers.
Activity has not been as quiet with coaches and players from last year’s team. In addition to Hummel, offensive line and running backs coach Will Bratcher started a teaching and coaching position at Conway in December. Offensive coordinator Joe Bernard, a former college assistant, has also been hired as the offensive coordinator and running backs coach at the University of Albany (N.Y.). Additionally, top receiver Kyle Belack and his family are in the process of moving within the Myrtle Beach district lines.