CHS 'considering' change at head football coach position

By CLAY MCFERRIN,

Two-and-a-half days after leading his team to the brink of a state championship berth, Charleston High School head football coach Scott Martin was informed that he might not be the coach next season.

The CHS Tigers were defeated 14-6 by North Side in the Class 2A North championship game on Nov. 29.

Martin, 52, said that about midafternoon on the following Monday, Dec. 2, he was in the team’s field house cleaning and taking inventory when he was approached by CHS Principal Mark Beechem, who asked if they could go to Martin’s adjacent classroom to talk. Martin said Assistant Principal Eric Rice joined them in the classroom.

Martin said he understood Beechem to tell him, “I thought you did a real good job this year, but we’re going to go in a different direction.”

Martin asked if that meant he was fired, and he said the principal told him, “We’re not firing you, we’re going in a different direction.”

Martin, who teaches geometry and compensatory math at CHS, asked about his teaching position, for which he is under contract through the 2019-20 school year.

“We’re going to keep you on as a teacher, but we’re going to go in a different direction in athletics,” Martin said he was told by Beechem.

The coach said he was given no reason.

Martin, who has led the CHS football program since 2013, said he interpreted those words to mean that he was being replaced as head coach immediately.

Two days later, Martin broke the news to his team.

“At the end of cleaning up and training, I told the kids that I was told I was no longer the head coach,” he said.  “They were upset about it.”

His uncertainty about what had transpired early last week was reflected in a Thursday remark to The Sun-Sentinel.

“I don’t know who’s the football coach now,” he said.

Contacted for comment, Beechem emailed a statement to The Sun-Sentinel Monday that seemed to answer that question.

“I am informing you that Scott Martin is currently the head football coach of Charleston High School,” Beechem noted, adding, “the assistant principal and myself did have a conversation with Coach Martin about considering going in a different direction for next year with the head football position. I never stated that Scott Martin was fired.”

In a separate email to the newspaper Monday morning, Rice, too, said Martin was told “...that we were considering or thinking about going in a different direction with the football program next season,” adding, “At no time did Mr. Beechem tell Coach Martin that he was fired as the head football coach.”

During a telephone call later, Beechem declined to comment on why he approached Martin in the first place, noting, “I’m really limited on what I can say to you. It’s just a personnel thing.  I really don’t have a comment for that.”

Despite the clarification that he remains the head football coach, in follow-up remarks late Monday, Martin said he still views the tone of last week’s meeting in a negative light.

“Like it would anyone, it kind of upsets me that the administration is thinking about going in a different direction,” he noted.

As an educator as well as a coach, Martin said he is supposed to be under two contracts — a teaching contract and an athletics contract — but noted that for the last two years, none of the CHS coaches have been asked to sign a coaching contract.

“I don’t know what’s going on with this,” he added.

Asked about Martin’s position, East Tallahatchie School District Superintendent Dr. Darron Edwards said Martin remains the head coach even without a contract.

“The way the school district works is, all coaches have at-will agreements,” Edwards noted.  “We always hire teachers, but we have at-will agreements for all individuals who are coaches.”

Edwards explained that on staffing matters at their respective schools, the principals make recommendations to the superintendent and the superintendent takes the recommendations to the school board.

“I don’t have a recommendation about Scott Martin not being the coach,” Edwards said. “If I get one, we’ll go from there.  But I don’t have anything in writing. There’s nothing of the sort.”

He noted that all school district employees, including members of the athletic staff, are evaluated and assessed as part of the decision-making process.  But he said the district is not yet at that stage.

“As far as next year is concerned, we haven’t finalized any decisions about any positions that we have at this point,” Edwards noted.

With that clarification on the record, Martin said, “I told the players [Monday] that I was still their coach until told different. I told them we’re going to keep on training and working.”

The coach said he will continue to go about his duties.

“I’m going to do my job.  What happens, happens.”

With a cumulative regular-season and postseason record of 80-23 (a 77.67 winning percentage) as head football coach at CHS, Martin’s teams have averaged 11-plus wins per season over seven years.

During Martin’s tenure as head coach, the varsity Tigers have won five of seven region championships (finishing second twice), won three north half titles in five appearances and played in three state championship games from 2014-2016, losing those three contests by a total of 14 points.

Before assuming his present position, Martin served two years as an offensive assistant coach under then CHS head coach Tony Vance.  Martin was on the coaching staff when the Tigers won a state championship in 2011, and when they lost in a return trip to the title game in 2012. When Vance left CHS to become head football coach at Hattiesburg High School, Martin was chosen for promotion from among 35 applicants considered for the position.

As head coach of the CHS boys’ powerlifting squad, Martin has led his lifters to multiple regional and north half championships and to two runner-up finishes at state.  He also has served as an assistant coach for the girls' powerlifting team.

During his career as a head football coach, Martin has a cumulative won-lost record of 121-47 (a 72.02% success rate).

Obituaries

SCOBEY — James Robert Womble, 85, of Scobey, passed away Wednesday, Feb. 12, at his home.