Search firm helps with Denison football coach search

The search for Denison’s athletic director and head football coach has been underway for two weeks and the response to the opening is what superintendent Dr. Henry Scott thought it would be.

“The overall quality appears to be very good,” he said. “There’s going to be some real competition for this job.”

So far there have been 106 applicants to replace Cody White, who stepped down after five seasons to take a similar position at Brentwood Academy in Tennessee.

The opening has drawn significant interest because it is the first time in 20 years that the position has been available to a candidate outside the school district. White was elevated from offensive coordinator when the school’s all-time win leader, Bob Brown, retired after the 2006 season.

Scott confirmed that the choice will come from outside the current group of assistants.

“We’ve got two or three people we feel will be ready in time, that’s why we decided to go outside,” he said. “I think the current staff does a very good job in terms of coaching and in the classroom as well.”

Brown’s arrival in 1992 to succeed Marty Criswell was the last time Denison needed to hire on a state-wide basis.

“It’s totally different. When we hired Coach Brown we only had 55 applicants,” Scott said. “I believe it was open just before Christmas and we didn’t hire until April. The way we received 96 percent of the applications (this time) is through e-mail. It’s like night and day.”

Denison is using the consulting group Champions Search Firm to narrow the list. From all the applicants 20 will be selected and that group will be narrowed to between three and five finalists for interviews by a Denison ISD committee that will include, among others, Dr. Scott and assistant principal John Parker.

“We hope to have someone to take to the board around the 22nd of March,” Scott said. “It may not be that quick. We want to make sure we get the right choice for Denison.”

Champions Search Firm is a five-person organization that is led by Hall of Fame high school coach Bob Ledbetter and Jim Hess, a former scout for the Dallas Cowboys. Two dozen schools across the state have used them in some capacity, including Sherman, Whitesboro, Southlake Carroll and La Marque.

“The amount of time spent to narrow it to three or five people is going to be enormous,” Scott said. “They’ll go through every application, do background checks and stream it down.”

Ledbetter will be at the Feb. 27 Booster Club meeting in the Denison High School Commons to produce a profile of the new coach and get input from the community.

In using that service, Denison ISD does not have to release any names of applicants until the finalists for interviews are determined. Scott did say that he received a call from College Football Hall of Fame coach Grant Teaff, who wanted to recommend someone. The final candidate is expected to go to the Denison School Board so that the hire will be in place no later that April 1.

The head football coaching stability at Denison has been rarely seen around the state with frequent changes normally coming for one reason or another.

“We’ve had three coaches in 31 years and all came from different directions,” Scott said. “Marty Criswell was an offensive coordinator we took a chance on and it paid off big. Bob Brown had a lot of head coaching experience and of course Cody was produced from the staff.”

While the posting for the job prefers 4A or 5A experience, the top candidate should shine in other areas as well.

“What we’d like to see is a person of integrity, is a great role model for kids, great coaching and a very capable athletic administrator,” Scott said. “They need to be a community person. We want someone who will be here for a long time.”