VALDOSTA — Valdosta High has its new football coach: Rick Tomberlin.
Tomberlin, the head coach at Washington County, was named the 14th head coach in Valdosta High’s illustrious history Monday night at a specially called Board of Education meeting.
Tomberlin brings 200 career wins, three state championships, and a reputation as both a winner and a man who has positively influenced many young men over his long coaching career.
“For us to get a coach of his caliber here — he’s the winningest coach over the last 14 years — to be the coach of the winningest football program in the country, I think that’s a good match, I really do,” Valdosta High principal Brett Stanton said.
“He’s a proven winner. He’s personable, he’s approachable. He knows his X’s and O’s. He’s organized. He’s faith-based. Excellent weight program. Three state championships,” Valdosta athletic director Warren Weeks said. “Check, check, check, check, check.”
On Monday night, the Board met in executive session for less than 10 minutes, then came out and voted unanimously to approve Tomberlin’s hiring. The announcement received applause from most of the crowd gathered at the Valdosta City Schools building for the meeting.
The football program that has won more games than any school in the country (828 wins through the 2005 season) will be getting the coach that won more games in the last 14 years than any coach in Georgia.
In 14 seasons at Washington County, Tomberlin went 157-31. The Golden Hawks won three state championships, and were state runners-up twice. In 22 seasons as a head coach at three schools, including a three-year stint at Lowndes from 1989-91, Tomberlin is a combined 200-80.
“I’m very excited to have Rick Tomberlin on board,” Stanton said. “I think if you look at what he did at Washington County, it was pretty phenomenal. He took over a program that was just about non-existent, and in the last 14 years, he’s just put them on the map as a power, year-in and year-out, to be contended with.”
“I think they got a good one,” Seffner (Fla.) Armwood coach Sean Callahan, one of the other finalists, told the St. Petersburg Times on Monday.
“I think he’s going to do a good job, and I think he’ll be here a long time,” Weeks said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better person.”
Several big-name coaches agree. Among the coaches Tomberlin listed as references were Georgia head coach Mark Richt and legendary Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden (who Tomberlin played for in the late 1970s at FSU). When contacted, both spoke glowingly about Tomberlin. So did Valdosta State head coach Chris Hatcher, who wrote an unsolicited letter of recommendation for him.
“That was real impressive,” Stanton admitted. “One thing that really impressed me was when Mark Richt told (Valdosta City Schools Superintendent Sam) Allen that Rick Tomberlin was a coach he’d want his son to play for.”
Tomberlin was not in town for the meeting Monday night. He will come to Valdosta to meet with the players and the Valdosta High faculty on Thursday.
No timetable has been set for Tomberlin to come to Valdosta permanently. He still has obligations to the Washington County School System, but Valdosta hopes to have him in town as soon as possible.
“We’re going to try to work something out with Washington County,” Stanton said. “We’d like to have him here as soon as possible. We’ve talked with Dr. (Donna) Hinton, the superintendent of the Washington County School System, and her first obligation is to Washington County. Now they’re going to have to go through what we just went through. But we’re hopeful that we’ll have him here, possibly by March 1.”
Tomberlin now inherits the task of trying to return Valdosta High’s proud football program to a position of state and national prominence. Though still one of Georgia’s elite programs, the Wildcats have not won a state championship since 1998, the school’s longest drought since the school first won a title in 1940. Valdosta went 7-5 last season.
“We’ve got to get behind him now,” Weeks said. “Every (Wildcat fan) needs to put everything aside and support him. They’ve got to get behind him, and not let the kids hear them put him down. He’s going to do a great job here.”
VALDOSTA — Valdosta High has its new football coach: Rick Tomberlin.
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