South Grand Prairie's Whitson to be Denison football coach/AD

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
South Grand Prairie head coach Brent Whitson has accepted the job to lead the Denison football program. He was a 6A South Grand Prairie for the past 10 seasons.

South Grand Prairie head coach Brent Whitson has been tabbed to lead the Yellow Jacket football program and serve as Denison's athletic director.

Whitson has compiled a 126-106 overall record in 21 seasons across stops at South Grand Prairie, Richardson, Broken Arrow (Okla.) and Shawnee (Okla.), where he won a state championship.

DISD superintendent Dr. Henry Scott would not confirm that Whitson has been hired. Denison expects to make a formal announcement on Monday afternoon at the administration building. Any hire is deemed official after a contract has been signed.

Whitson is replacing Chad Rogers, who stepped down in late January to take the same position at Tioga, and becomes just the fifth Denison football coach since 1981.

Rogers guided Denison to a 7-4 record this past season with a third-place finish in District 10-5A and reached the postseason for the first time in three years after missing on tie-breakers in 2018 and 2019.

He had a 49-45 record with four playoff appearances and a shared district title in nine seasons at DHS and leaves with the fourth-most victories in program history — but none in the postseason — and his tenure was surpassed only by Bob Brown’s 15 seasons and Marty Criswell’s 11 while matching Les Cranfill’s run of nine years. He is also the program’s winningest coach in the Battle of the Ax rivalry with Sherman, leaving with an 8-1 mark that includes the current eight-game winning streak the Jackets will carry into the 2021 opener.

Denison used Champions Search Firm and received 94 applications that were initially culled to around 20. Eight candidates were brought in for interviews with six of them being head coaches at the Class 5A or 6A level. The other two interviewed were Denison’s top assistants — offensive coordinator Charlie Means and defensive coordinator Todd Wallis, who has overseen the program since Rogers’ departure.

After the those interviews were conducted, the list was narrowed again to three candidates with Whitson emerging as the choice of the selection committee.

In 10 seasons at Class 6A South Grand Prairie, Whitson made the playoffs in his final seven seasons, including a 6-3 record this past fall with a 20-16 loss against Allen in the 6A Division I area round after handing District 7-6A champion Lake Highlands its only loss with a 38-14 bi-district victory.

The Warriors did not make the playoffs his first three years but sandwiched 4-6 records around a 5-5 mark. His last seven years were no worse than a finish in the regular season with a pair of 7-5 campaigns in 2015 and 2017 being his best years in getting South Grand Prairie to the second round to go with 2020’s COVID-19-shortened schedule.

The program’s current run of playoff berths is the longest in school history, surpassing a four-year stretch from 1997-2000.

Whitson’s first foray as a head coach in Texas was at Richardson, where he was 18-24 in four years that included an 0-10 mark in his first season, 2007, after he took over a team that went winless in 2006.

The program then won more games than the previous year each of the next three seasons and made the playoffs the final two years he was in charge.

The postseason appearance in 2009 ended the program’s 17-year playoff drought and his 6-5 and 7-4 marks in his last two years (2009 and 2010) were the program’s only winning records from 1995 heading into the 2021 season. He also helped Richardson end an 11-year losing streak against rival J.J. Pearce.

Before his move to the Texas coaching ranks, Whitson was in charge at Broken Arrow (Okla.) and in three years at the Class 6A school he went 22-14 — including 17-4 in district play — and made the playoffs each season, including a state semifinal appearance in 2005. The Tigers were also state quarterfinalists in 2004. His last year there was a 5-6 mark with a first-round playoff lost to eventual state champ Jenks.

Whitson got his first head coaching position at Shawnee and was 32-15 in four seasons, including the 2003 Class 5A state championship with his son, Carter, serving as the starting quarterback. Carter was a walk-on wide receiver at Oklahoma and is now the head coach at Putnam City (Okla.).

After playing at East Central University, Whitson began his career as an assistant at Ada, his alma mater where he was the quarterback for the Class 3A state runner-up in 1979, under the legendary Larry McBroom and then followed him across the Red River to Weatherford in the late 90s before embarking on a head coaching career that has now stretched into its third decade.