Evans football coach Lee Chomskis, who was the school's former athletic director, announce he was resigning from the post Jan. 3. He will finish out the school year as a history teacher.
Early Monday afternoon, Evans High School football coach Lee Chomskis was asked to address the worst-kept secret in Columbia County.
"At this time I have no comment," Mr. Chomskis said. "What have you heard?"
The word was that during the previous week Evans Principal Don Brigdon had requested a letter of resignation from Mr. Chomskis.
Mr. Chomskis broke the news to his coaching staff on Friday, Jan. 3, and from there the "secret" spread like wildfire.
The topic became fodder for talk radio Monday afternoon. Later that day, a television crew arrived at the coach's house.
Still, the time wasn't right to make a statement.
"I have no comment at all," Mr. Chomskis reiterated Tuesday. "None of this stuff is official. The principal had surgery, and until we can see each other, nothing can be done officially."
Evans Principal Don Brigdon had shoulder surgery on Monday, but he was well enough to work a half-day Wednesday.
"It's official," Mr. Chomskis said Wednesday afternoon after submitting his letter of resignation.
That brought an end to a tumultuous three days at Evans High.
After finishing out the school year as a history teacher, Mr. Chomskis' stay at Evans will be history.
"I want to go out as clean as I can," Mr. Chomskis said. "All that stuff in the media shouldn't have gotten out. It all could have been taken care of differently."
Mr. Brigdon says he regrets that the end was so drawn out, but he has no second thoughts about making the coaching change.
"I can't get into too many details, so this will be short and sweet," he said. "We had a difference in philosophy, and the program wasn't going in the direction I was looking for."
Mr. Chomskis graduated in 1980 from Westside High School, where he played baseball and was quarterback for the football team.
After earning a degree at Augusta College, Mr. Chomskis began his prep coaching career at Hephzibah High School. He went on to work as a coach at Burke County and Screven County high schools, and joined the Evans football staff as an offensive line coach in 1997.
Mr. Chomskis was on the verge of leaving Evans in 1998 when a coaching slot opened up at Thomson High School under incoming coach Luther Welsh.
At that point, longtime Evans football coach and athletic director Jim Connor offered Mr. Chomskis a promotion to offensive coordinator, which Mr. Chomskis accepted.
In January of 2001, Conner announced his decision to retire at the end of the school year. A month later, former Evans Principal Robert Waller tabbed Mr. Chomskis to fill Connor's positions.
Time to go
It was no surprise when Mr. Chomskis was named head football coach. The sudden resignation is another story.
"I was blind-sided, to use the term Lee used," said Rick Crawford president of the Evans High School Athletic Booster Club. "It was a shock."
After Mr. Chomskis officially stepped down, some of his supporters were equally stunned.
"I'm devastated, to tell you the truth," Jim Siple said. "I think he was doing a terrific job. The guy wants to be a football coach. At one time he wanted to be a football coach at Evans."
Mr. Siple is a staple at Evans athletic events, and has been following the Knights for years. He has often been referred to as the school's No. 1 fan.
For Mr. Siple, the events of the past week have been a Knightmare, so to speak.
"Selfishly, I did want him to change his mind (and not resign)," Mr. Siple said. "A lot of people were on his side. It's too late to do anything about it now, but if he had two more years, Evans would have been a pretty darn good football team."
Mr. Brigdon understands that Mr. Chomskis has faithful followers, but the principal stands by his decision.
"I'm sure there are quite a few unhappy people, but they're not privy to everything, and they're not experiencing what I'm experiencing," Mr. Brigdon said. "They'll never know the whole story, and I'll never tell them."
During the past two seasons under Mr. Chomskis, the Knights won just three games, posting records of 1-9 and 2-8.
The win-loss record wasn't stellar, but most Evans fans realized Mr. Chomskis was fighting an uphill battle - the Knights have fielded very young squads the past two seasons, and they had to compete against larger Class AAAAA teams with too much firepower.
More disturbing than the losses was the fact that the Evans football team also had a high attrition rate the past two years; Brigdon expressed concern about those dwindling numbers.
Mr. Chomskis experienced some other problems. Last April, $900 raised at a track meet was stolen from his office. Mr. Chomskis admitted the money wasn't properly secured, and he eventually paid the school back from his own pocket.
He still lost his job as athletic director.
"The first year, I have several regrets," Mr. Chomskis said. "I think we addressed most of the problems. I think the way we handled the football team was great. The way we played at the end of the year (2002) showed that."
By some accounts, Mr. Chomskis may have been too tough for his own good - the admittedly staunch disciplinarian drew criticism from some factions at Evans, who thought he was too hard on players.
Faced with the shape-up or ship-out coaching philosophy, many athletes quit the team.
In one particular case, Mr. Chomskis had two players level one of their teammates. Following that abuse at a summer practice in 2001, Chad Muns decided he didn't want to play his junior year at Evans.
Instead of filing an assault charge, Chad's father patted Mr. Chomskis on the back for giving his son a kick in the britches.
"At the time my son was soft, and Lee was trying to toughen him up," Lee Muns said. "I played football and I had the same thing happen to me. Coaches need players on the field who can tough it out. Lee runs a tough program."
Chad came back and had a great senior year with the Knights in 2002.
"Chad learned a major life lesson," Mr. Muns said. "It concerns me that something that happened with my son is being used as a negative toward Lee."
For Lee Chomskis, the task now is to find another job as a high school football coach.
"I'm moving on to other opportunities," he said. "This is a blessing in disguise."
Evans, meanwhile, also has to make a fresh start.
"Being Booster Club president, I'm concerned about the future of the football and athletic programs," Mr. Crawford said. "I'm trying to stay out of personnel issues, but we need to make sure things get back on track as soon as possible."
Mr. Brigdon says there is no set timetable to replace Mr. Chomskis, or any other members of the football coaching staff who choose to leave.
Finding a few good men won't be easy.
From where Lee Muns stands, the best is about to go.
"We'll never find a man with the drive and desire this man had. Given time and support, he could be another Larry Campbell or Luther Welsh," Mr. Muns said of the ex-Evans coach. "Ten years from now people are going to look back and say, 'What the hell did we do?"'
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