Sports column: Vicksburg High football is back at square one
Published 4:00 am Sunday, April 2, 2023
Well, here we are again.
For the sixth time in 12 years, Vicksburg High School is searching for a new football head coach. Todd McDaniel, the latest in that parade, announced Thursday that he has taken a job as Ridgeland’s head coach and athletic director.
It’s a great personal move for McDaniel. He’ll surely get a nice bump in pay — the athletic director position comes with a commensurate salary in addition to the one for coaching and teaching — and provides a bridge toward a post-coaching administrative career.
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McDaniel is leaving Vicksburg High’s football program in a good place. He led them to a region title and the MHSAA Class 5A semifinals in 2022, and whoever follows him will inherit a talented, veteran team completely capable of winning the Class 6A title in 2023.
McDaniel only spent three years at VHS, but showed what the program is capable of in the right hands. He did the job well and should be applauded for it. That he’s leaving so soon, however, is part of a troubling trend.
For nearly 45 years, Vicksburg High’s football program was a model of stability at the top. From 1977 until 2011, it only had four head coaches. If you’re keeping track, that’s two less than in the past 12 years.
VHS football is an attractive job. There is plenty of talent in the city that, as McDaniel and his staff have shown the past couple of years, can be cultivated into a winner. The facilities are good.
And, for all the recent turnover, attracting quality leaders has not been a problem.
Among the coaches who have come and gone are Tavares Johnson, who has taken two schools to the Class 1A championship game; Marcus Rogers, who has gone on to build a solid program at Holmes County Central; Lorenzo Breland, now on the staff at Pearl River Community College; Tim Hughes, a Vicksburg native who is currently on Warren Central’s staff; and McDaniel, who has won more than 100 games in his career.
That’s a solid list. And yet, for one reason or another, none of them stuck around for the long term.
Whether it’s other school districts offering better pay or opportunities, a perceived lack of support, or organizational dysfunction on some level that made them leave is something only they could answer. But it’s something Vicksburg High and the Vicksburg Warren School District needs to figure out, or this cycle is destined to continue.
Rather than being a destination job in the upper reaches of Mississippi high school football, Vicksburg High is coming across as merely a steppingstone to higher-profile jobs.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. A good coach will always be in demand, and it’s a profession where it’s often shrewd or wise to stay on the move. We can enjoy the successes and appreciate the good job a coach does while they’re here.
It’s just unfortunate that they’re not here longer.
Vicksburg High football has the potential to be among the best in Mississippi. McDaniel and some of his predecessors have shown what is possible. To borrow one of McDaniel’s favorite phrases, the next guy just needs to be given a reason to see it through.
Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org