Restless nights are nothing new for Lee Chomskis.
Lakeside 's former athletic director Ed Koester is now the assistant coach at Duluth High School.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
When the head football coach at Evans High School hits the sack, his job comes with him.
"Many nights I lay awake with things on my mind," he says. "Not about something somebody said to me, or didn't say to me, but about things I need to do, or didn't get done that day."
Now, because of something he didn't get done one day last spring, Chomskis has less worries than at this time last school year.
But that doesn't mean he's sleeping like a baby these days.
Chomskis is a former athletic director, and he's not alone.
Of Columbia County's six high schools, four have new athletic directors for the 2002-03 school year.
In turn, that means four more went out the door.
Along with Chomskis, Mike Gold (Augusta Christian Schools), Kevin Long (Augusta Preparatory Day School), and Ed Koester (Lakeside High School) are Columbia County's ex-athletic directors.
Gold, Koester and Long have moved on to other schools, while Chomskis is still at Evans, leading the Knights into another football season.
"No one can put any more pressure on me than I put on myself. Not a soul here can do that," said Chomskis, who has chosen to refocus his energies rather than dwell on the past.
"I expect perfection in what I do. I expect the people around me to work hard as well."
Chomskis has stuck around, so it's easy to chronicle his pursuits in a post-AD role; but Gold, Long and Koester also are busy formulating plans for athletic success.
So let's examine each individual's past, present and future.
Evans former athletic director Ed Chomskis watches football practice at the school. Chomskis was removed from his post and is now the head coach of the Evans football team.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
When Gail Connor made history, Chomskis' title as Evans High School athletic director was history.
In the quietest of moves, Connor replaced Chomskis last spring, and became Columbia County's first female high school athletic director.
"There's no bitterness at all," Chomskis said of losing his AD job before finishing one full school year in the position.
"I made some mistakes, some things dealing with policy. They were honest mistakes and were made running full speed. But, nonetheless, they were mistakes."
The major mistake was not securing money from a fund-raiser held at an Evans track meet last April. Chomskis placed $900 in his desk, and left it there during spring break.
When he returned to his office and reached in the desk, Chomskis discovered the money was missing.
"If a mistake is serious enough, you have to answer for it. And when $900 is stolen, and it should have been turned in, that's a serious mistake."
Evans principal Don Brigdon evidently thought so - shortly after the theft, Chomskis was demoted.
"I really don't want to comment on personnel issues," Brigdon said. "I wasn't trying to make an example of him. We need to accept responsibility for a mistake and move on."
The thief has moved on - no suspects have been apprehended, and Chomskis has received his sentence.
Still, despite the unsettling turn of events, Chomskis is determined to do the best job he can as head football coach.
"I'm not looking to go anywhere. I'm going to work as hard as I can while I'm here at Evans. The people of Columbia County have been good to me. I'm excited about concentrating on football and doing the things we need to do to get the football team prepared for the season.
"(Not being athletic director) may be a blessing in disguise for me right now. I certainly hope I'll be an athletic director again some day."
Augusta Prep 's former basketball coach Kevin Long has moved to Texas to be the athletic director at Forth Worth Country Day School.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The former athletic director and head basketball coach at Augusta Christian Schools has hooked up with another Georgia Independent Schools Association program.
Gold now calls Marietta home. He is assistant basketball coach, assistant athletic director and head baseball coach at Dominion Christian High School.
"I've been welcomed with open arms. It's a fresh start for me," Gold says. "God's led me here. I believe that without a shadow of a doubt. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to minister here and impact lives, just like I did at Augusta Christian."
After arriving at AC in 1993, Gold began to work miracles. He transformed a weak athletic program into a solid contender in the GISA.
Gold led the Lions to two Class AAA state basketball titles, captured five straight region basketball crowns, and also assembled a premier coaching staff in other sports.
Everything looked great for Gold last year, as his basketball team opened with an 8-0 record.
Then, in a move as sudden as it was shocking, Gold resigned his positions in December.
Gold admitted violating school policy prohibiting dating among faculty members, and Augusta Christian's board of directors apparently gave an ultimatum - resign or be fired.
Gold made his choice, addressed his basketball team one last time, and disappeared into the woodwork.
"They did what they had to do and I just accepted it. I thought it was best for everyone to leave the way I did," said Gold, who at the time did not discuss the situation with the media. "There was enough hoopla going on, and I didn't want negative press for the school, me, or my family."
A lot of folks, including insiders at Augusta Christian, thought Gold got a raw deal. His record as a coach was impeccable, as was his reputation as a person.
The entire situation is still difficult for Gold to swallow, but he has turned the other cheek.
"Let's put it this way - it was not the way I wanted to leave. I loved Augusta Christian. I haven't spoken an ill word yet, nor will I."
Gold will return to Augusta this December, when Dominion Christian competes in the Augusta Christian/Curtis Baptist Christmas basketball tournament - the same event where the Lions began life after Gold last year.
"I'm excited just to get back and see everyone. I miss them. There are still great memories, friends and players who have been in touch this whole time."
The former athletic director at Augusta Preparatory Day School left on his own terms - no controversy, no regrets, and plenty of positives.
Long, Prep's AD for the past five years, is now the athletic director at Forth Worth Country Day School.
For Long, everything is bigger in Texas, including his paycheck, his hometown and his athletic program - at Fort Worth Country Day, he's in charge of 66 teams and 16 sports.
"I'm enjoying it. It's a great school, and a great move for me," he said. "We have a bigger athletic program, but a similar academic reputation as Augusta Prep."
There are also some major differences - Long's new school features field hockey, football and boys volleyball teams.
"It's different, but I've been exposed to those sports all of my life," said Long, who worked at schools in the Northeast and Midwest before coming to Columbia County.
In addition to being AD, Long is coaching the middle school football team, and plans to help out with golf team next spring.
Fittingly, Long forged a lasting legacy as golf coach at Augusta Prep. The Cavaliers claimed three straight region golf titles and won the Class AAA state championship in 2000.
He did not fare as well in three seasons as boys basketball coach at Prep, but overall, Long left his former school on solid ground.
"While I was at Prep, it was great to watch the athletic program grow, bring in new coaches and improve the facilities. There has been a slow shift in Columbia County where athletes look at Augusta Prep as an option. I think they've got a bright future."
Lakeside High School's former athletic director and head football coach is back on the gridiron this year as an assistant coach at Duluth High School.
"I'm happy where I'm at, and I'm glad to be here," Koester said of the Gwinnett County program.
Koester joins the staff of a Georgia High School Association team which competes in Region 8-AAAAA, the stomping grounds of two-time defending state champion Parkview.
Duluth posted a 4-6 record last season, which matched Koester's mark with the Panthers in 2001.
When contacted last week, Koester wasn't eager to talk about the upcoming prep campaign, and he wasn't willing to reflect on his lone year at Lakeside.
"I can't remember anything positive about it," he said.
Some folks at Lakeside say the same about Koester's short reign, which was marked by accusations of heavy-handedness bordering on tyranny.
By many accounts, Koester ruled with an iron fist.
On one occasion, following a penalty-plagued game by his football team, Koester meted out some punishment at practice.
For every yard the Panthers were penalized, the players had to crawl across the turf on their stomachs, without the benefit of using their hands.
The site of prostrate players wriggling around like worms in the hot sun, accompanied by the harsh words of a screaming head coach, isn't a pretty picture.
Obviously, Koester's motivational ploy didn't work, and the get-tough approach may have, in fact, caused a backlash from his players. The senior-laden Lakeside squad entered the 2001 season with high expectations, but underachieved and finished with a losing record.
The problems started when Lakeside principal Victor Lee selected Koester (who had been dismissed as head football coach at Cherokee High School) to be head football coach and AD. Many Lakeside supporters wanted to see an internal candidate replace longtime coach Steve Crislip, and those critics were on Koester's case from day one.
Later, Lee and Koester found themselves in hot water when it was discovered that Koester was disciplined for rules infractions incurred while coaching in Texas, and that the information was covered up by both men during the hiring process.
As a result, Koester was stripped of his athletic director position, but things would become even worse.
Koester's fate was ultimately sealed on Nov. 2, 2001, when Lakeside played Hephzibah at Panther Stadium.
The winner of that Region 3-AAAA game would gain an inside track to the state playoffs, and with Lakeside holding a 21-7 lead late in the fourth quarter, it appeared the Panthers were postseason bound.
Then it all unraveled - Hephzibah scored defensive touchdowns on an interception and a fumble recovery to pull out a 22-21 overtime win, and Koester came under fire for dubious play-calling.
After the stunning defeat, a prominent Lakeside athletic booster confronted Koester and said, "You need to go into that locker room and apologize to those boys, because you lost this game."
The apology never came, and Koester soon went - he resigned in February, shortly after Lee had tendered his own resignation.
Subsequently, Lakeside assistant Randy Hill was named head football coach and athletic director.
As for Koester, Duluth High School has welcomed him aboard, and head football coach Bill Shields is happy to have him, not to mention Koester's son, Klay, a strong-armed quarterback.
"He's a social studies teacher, where he does a tremendous job," Shields said of the ex-Lakeside leader. "And he's a heck of a football coach."
But Koester is not much of a speaker, at least when the subject is his time in Columbia County.
"Tell the folks down there hello for me," he said, slicing an interview down to a few seconds. "I'm on my way to the practice field."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.