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Coach undecided about staying

Principal wants Hill to be teacher

Posted: Sunday, January 21, 2007

News of Lakeside High School Principal Jeff Carney's decision to fire Randy Hill as athletic director and head football coach came early last week.

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Hill might not be gone for good, though.

"I sincerely hope that Coach Hill remains as a teacher at Lakeside and that he continues to be involved in athletics," Carney said in a news release announcing Hill's firing Monday.

On Tuesday, Carney backed up his initial statement.

"I truly would like to see him stay here at Lakeside and remain involved in our athletic program - both as a coach and as a parent," he said in an e-mail.

Hill still has two children attending Lakeside and has been an employee of the Columbia County school district for 25 years. His contributions to the Lakeside athletic department include the addition of four new sports, with a fifth (girls lacrosse) planned for this spring. He led the Lakeside athletic program to a No. 5 ranking in the Class AAAA Director's Cup for the 2005-06 school year, a better ranking than any other Class AAAA school in the Augusta area.

Though Hill will be relieved of his duties as athletic director and head football coach at the end of the school year, the titles of teacher and wrestling coach are still his for the taking.

On Wednesday, Hill said he would take time to consider the offer but had not made up his mind on whether he would return to Lakeside for 2007-08.

Carney said he holds Hill's teaching and leadership skills in high regard.

"As a person, you can't say anything negative about Randy," he said. "His strength is in his personality and interpersonal skills with kids and parents."

Still, an 11-38-1 football record over the past five years, including a 2-8 season in 2006, wasn't the type of improvement Carney and some Lakeside parents had expected. Hill's predecessor, Ed Koester, faced similar criticism after only one year of coaching and a 4-6 record in 2001.

Koester resigned amid heavy criticism and pressure from some Lakeside parents.

"It was a crazy series of events that apparently started with a group of parents meeting at different people's houses - this is just things other parents have told me," Hill said. "I heard there was a letter sent to the school, and even (Columbia County school) board members were approached. I feel for the rest of the coaches in the county if this is setting a precedent. I think it's crazy that a group of parents can secretly meet and something like this happens."

Carney said some parental input will be included in the search for a new athletic director and coach.

"Five years ago when I hired Randy, I did the interviewing myself and did not involve the boosters," he said. "After being here five years and getting to know many of the parents that are involved in our booster organization, I am very comfortable including them in this search."

The last coach with a winning record at Lakeside was the school's first: Steve Crislip, who posted back-to-back-to-back winning years with the Panthers before retiring after the 2000-01 school year. Carney said he hopes to review as many applicants as possible this time to get back to that winning tradition.

"I'd like to think that some of our assistants will apply because they know our program and can probably identify some changes that need to be made," Carney said. "However, I do anticipate outside qualified candidates to apply also. The richer our pool of candidates, the better off our school will be once we hire the right person."

Carney said he hopes to hire a football coach and athletic director by early March.



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