Sherman ISD appears committed to splitting the jobs of head football coach and athletic director as it searches for a new head coach, at least in the near term.

Sherman ISD appears committed to splitting the jobs of head football coach and athletic director as it searches for a new head coach, at least in the near term.

The strongest indication came from superintendent Al Hambrick during Thursday night’s community meeting with members of Champions Search Firm at Sherman High School’s Little Theater.

“Right now we have an athletic director in Tommy Hudspeth, and we have a lot of faith in him,” Hambrick said in response to a question from an audience of about 70 people. “We have him here now, and we treat him just like he’s our athletic director, and he is. … The kids need a coach here for offseason work and to put a philosophy in place. The priority was to get a coach here; there’s no timeline on an athletic director.”

The question concerned why a new head coach was being hired before a new athletic director was.

Hudspeth, a retired former Sherman head coach and administrator, was brought back on an interim basis in November, a month after the title of AD was taken away from former head coach Gary Kinne as punishment for a University Interscholastic League rule violation.

Kinne, who was handed a one-game suspension and a two-year probation by the UIL executive committee on Oct. 4, kept the job of head coach until he submitted his resignation on Jan. 17.

Bob Ledbetter, founder of Champions Search Firm, said the trend at larger schools has been to separate athletic director duties from head football coaching duties.

“There is so much going on that an athletic director has to be involved in,” Ledbetter said. “If a coach can coach football and let the athletic director take care of volleyball and cross country and all those other things, that’s a good thing.”

Later, answering a question from the audience, Ledbetter added, “If was coming to Sherman and all I had to do was coach football, that would be an ideal situation to be in.”

Only the position of head football coach is open at present, and the purpose of Thursday night’s meeting was to discuss the hiring process.

Ledbetter said the salary being offered for the head coaching job “is in a competitive range,” but did not specify a figure.

“We’re not looking for a guy who is chasing the almighty dollar,” Ledbetter said. “The salary range we’re talking about will attract the coach you need here.”

Recently-retired Denton ISD athletic director Ken Purcell, who is also a member of the search firm, said so far the firm has received 19 applications from head coaches and 18 from current offensive and defensive coordinators. The applicant list also includes 16 from out of state, he added.

The stated goal of the school district is to have a new head football coach in place by April 1, but it’s possible a finalist could be named in time for the SISD board of trustees’ regular monthly meeting March 17.

We’ll be conducting interviews in the next week and a half,” Purcell said. “It’ll be up to the administration to decide when to do its interviews.”

Both Ledbetter and Purcell emphasized several times that the candidates they will present to the board will have the welfare of the student-athletes top of mind.

“We’ll spend time looking at this school and this community and we’ll form an opinion on who the right candidate will be and who’ll fit best in the community,” Ledbetter said. “If they care about the kids, they’ll have a chance.”

The majority of the meeting was spent by Ledbetter and Purcell explaining what their search firm was and how they went about finding the right coaching candidates.

“We’re not really consultants, we’re all athletic directors and head football coaches,” said Ledbetter, the former longtime Southlake Carroll head coach and athletic director. “A lot of superintendents used to call and ask me to rank applicants. When I retired, I started helping superintendents hire football coaches and athletic directors. I truly believe we help schools … and a lot of kids along the way.”

Ledbetter said his firm does not hire coaches, but rather, recruits coaches to fill specific positions, screens applications, and ultimately turns over a list of finalists to school boards.

“We’re looking for coaches who truly care about kids and cares a lot about the community they’re coaching in,” Ledbetter said.

Purcell said he looks for three things in coaches: a philosophy, a vision, and a plan.

“The kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Purcell said. “That’s an example of a philosophy. We want to find a coach that has long-range vision and short-range vision. We went them to want to win a state championship, but also to win the next game. We also want a coach that has a plan, what the workout schedule is from day 1 and whether the equipment is in the lockers and ready. You win championships in the offseason.”