Amid unspecified rumors floating around the community that the Thomaston-Upson Board of Education may be concerned with ULHS varsity football coach Tommy Watson’s record at the school, three members of the community stood up in the public comment portion of the Board of Education’s Nov. 12 meeting to voice their support of Watson. Board member Miriam Elsey was absent.
Coach Watson has been head coach at Upson-Lee for five years and has a record of 19-32. The three men who spoke, Rev. Greg Smith, Rev. Bill Barber, and Don Stewart, noted that being a successful football coach means more than just having a great win/loss record, and stated that several very successful high school football coaches started off with worse records than Watson.
Rev. Smith, who has been the chaplain for the football team for the last 15 years, said he has seen positive changes in the football players since Watson has been coach.
“Under Coach Watson’s leadership, I have witnessed a transformation in the development of our young men,” said Smith. “There have been times in the past when our football players were not good examples off the field in the community or in the classroom. Today I’m proud to say that the young men who are coming up in this program are men of character, very respectful, disciplined, and hard working. I attribute this chance to our positive impact that Coach Watson and his staff have had on these athletes.”
Rev. Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church and the father of two sons in the Upson-Lee football program, reminded the board that good coaches do experience losing.
“Four of the top 12 winningest coaches in the State of Georgia went through periods where they lost,” said Barber. “Dan Pitts, who is the 3rd winningest coach in the state, his first five years at Mary Persons, he averaged four wins a season, or 40 percent. Coach Watson’s record in his first five years is 19-32, or 37 percent. Barney Hester, who is the 6th all time winningest coach, won 25 percent of his games in the first five years he coached, and Roger Walker won 37 percent of his during that time. Even the legendary Jim Cavan, during the first five years that he coached at R. E. Lee, his record was 17-33, winning 34 percent of his football games. My thought is, what would have happened if the people at R. E. Lee had fired Jim Cavan after five years of coaching?”
Don Stewart stated that he has witnessed Coach Watson and his staff sacrificing themselves to make sure their players are the best that they can be.
“I am a huge fan, as well as I’m sure all you are, of anybody that gives of themselves to somebody else,” said Stewart. “With this coaching staff, it seems like you’ve got the right chemistry, the right make up to make the sky the limit. You’ve got the right personalities, the heart and the right desire to take it as far as you’ll ever take it, and not just in the aspect of winning, but even along the lines of creating not just men, but great men.”
Following their comments, Board member Angie McGill asked if any of the Board members had talked with the students who play football about how they feel about Coach Watson.
Board chair Terrell Jackson said he felt it would be inappropriate for them to ask the students for their opinions.
The Board later met in Executive Session with Coach Watson at his request. They came back out in Open Session and no action was taken.