Vanessa Fultz, Democrat Reporter
Sports - especially football - inspires strong feelings in players and fans. Just witness the controversy about Hamilton County High School Football Coach Mike Pittman.
Supporters of Pittman point to the improvement of the Trojans and their many wins. He has helped some players find scholarships by promoting them to colleges.
Opponents of Pittman claim that his style of coaching is ineffective. They feel that he is abrasive and rude to the players, other coaches, parents and opposing teams.
On Feb. 14, Pittman resigned as athletic director of the high school sports department. Subsequently the position was posted for applicants and Phillip Pinello was hired as the new athletic director.
This didn't satisfy Pittman's detractors and they continued to request that he be dismissed completely.
Pittman's contract as head coach concludes at the end of the 2004-05 school year, so the position was posted per union contract. Two applicants, Pittman and Scott Anderson, were interviewed on April 22.
When the Hamilton County School Board met on April 25, the matter of the head coach was not on the agenda. But supporters and opponents of Pittman and Anderson gathered in the meeting room until there was standing room only and the crowd overflowed into the hall.
Although Superintendent of Schools Harry Pennington had not reviewed the interviews at that time and was not prepared to make a decision, several people were allowed to state their views - pro and con - about both applicants.
Pennington has since decided to reject both applicants and will post the job again. He has also relieved Pittman of his coaching duties for the duration of his contract, although he will continue to teach physical education classes.
According to Pennington, it was a difficult decision. "I must consider what is in the best interests of the school district as a whole and carry through on that decision," he said.
Martha Butler, chairperson of the Hamilton County School Board, said, "I think Coach Pittman has done a fine job. He is one of the most successful coaches in North Florida and I would like to see him return to coaching."
HCHS Principal Gene Starr is Pittman's direct supervisor. He offered no comment about the situation concerning the head coach. Starr said that 80 boys signed up for football and assistant coaches will help with spring practice until a new football coach is hired. "Practice will go on; football will go on," Starr said.
The Jasper News attempted to contact Pittman for an interview by phone, but he did not respond by press time Wednesday.