Just a couple of years ago, things were looking great for the Augusta Christian Schools athletic program.
Coach Pete Meadows led the Lions to two state titles, including a crown in 1999; basketball coach Mike Gold also took two titles, and practically owned the courts in the Georgia Independent Schools Association; and, Steve Price had transformed the football program into a perennial GISA contender.
Well, now Meadows, Gold and Price are all gone.
Price is the latest coach to leave AC. After eight highly successful seasons, including a trip to the state finals in 1999, the Steve Price Era is over at Pride Valley.
Meadows was the first to bolt Baston Road, moving over to coach Westminster after the 2000 season.
Then, shockingly, Gold was pushed out the door this past fall. At the time, his basketball team had a 9-0 record, but Gold resigned under pressure because of a relationship with an AC faculty member.
Now, it's Price.
These coaching departures all are isolated incidents, and GISA coaches regularly change jobs and schools, but the turnover doesn't look good for Augusta Christian.
In Price's case, it's a shame that something couldn't be worked out.
The situation all started when Gold relinquished his basketball and athletic director positions. Price was the perfect candidate to become AC's new AD. He was in his eighth year at the school, and he truly loves the kids and the program.
Price was made interim athletic director in December, with the assumption being that the job would soon be his.
As expected, the job was Price's for the taking ... with one exception: one of the coaches he wanted to retain for the 2003-04 school year created a problem.
The coach in question is Jodie Price, the Lady Lions head basketball coach and Steve's wife.
Nepotism - that was the word AC board members began throwing around, although several board members had assured Price that his wife's coaching status would not be a problem.
Steve Price wasn't going to fire his wife, and the board wanted to stick with the policy prohibiting nepotism, so AC was soon left searching for a new football coach and athletic director.
Don't get me wrong; Price has no hard feelings. He and Jodie already have new jobs.
I just wish something could have been done to keep Steve Price. He was a valuable asset to our community, and he and Jodie cared deeply for the school and its students.
And the Lions loved Steve Price as well. A few nights ago at AC's annual sports banquet, Price was presented a framed No. 8 football jersey, with the number signifying his years of service at Augusta Christian.
As for the Price's new destination - they will be at Long County High School in Ludowici, Ga., which is located about 11 miles from Jesup. Long County is a Class A school which is just starting up its athletic program, and has all-new facilities, including a football field.
Steve will be offensive coordinator, while Jodie will coach the junior varsity girls basketball team and girls varsity track.
Now, what does Augusta Christian do for a football coach, athletic director and girls basketball coach?
In an indication that the two sides parted amicably, AC hired Price's longtime friend - and his recommendation - in Bruce Lane, who formerly coached at Southland Academy.
Current AC coach Keith Walton will lead the Lady Lions in basketball.
In football, Lane's offensive philosophy is similar to Price's, except he may run the option a bit more. Lane will employ a 5-2 defense.
Lane inherits and abundance of talent next year, including speedy running back Cole Rabun.
But before looking ahead to the 2002 football season, I'd like to first extend a fond farewell to Steve and Jodie Price. Good luck in Long County - you and your family will be missed.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.