Changing landscape takes down a successful football coach.
REALLY, IT WAS SOMETHING even the casual observer to high school football had to see coining. When Conway coach Kenny Smith resigned a little over a week after his Wampus Cats completed a 2-8 season, Conway's worst record since 1986, it dealt another winning hand to "what have you done for me lately" crowd.
But in this day and age of pass-happy offenses, Conway's supporters found Smith's grind-it-out style of football out of place.
Forget that his 18 years as a head coach at Conway produced 129 wins and six conference championships. Or that his 1993 squad reached the state final of Arkansas's highest classification before falling to an undefeated Pine Bluff Zebra squad.
Smith had only four losing seasons at the Conway program's helm, but three those happened to be his last three.
It didn't help the veteran Wampus Cat coach that a private school was growing, and growing quickly, in the southeast part of town. Conway Christian arose from an eight-man Christian School League to a playoff team in its first season as an Arkansas Activities Association member.
The potential siphoning of talent away from Conway High School had to weigh on the minds of the decision-makers who ousted Smith.
The wording was that Smith resigned, which he did, but not by his own choosing.
Having worked as the sports editor at Conway's Log Cabin Democrat for more than five years, Smith was a pleasure to work with. He was always available to make the job easier, whether it was an impromptu interview needed before an impending deadline or just for chit-chat in his office.
Smith is a Wampus Cat through and through. He wasn't just a football man, but a man for all seasons when it came to Conway High athletics. You couldn't go to a baseball, softball or basketball game and not see Smith there.
With change comes opportunity for someone, though. The Conway football coaching position will be an attractive one in the high school coaching circles.
The resumes that pile up on athletic director Buzz Bolding's desk should be a nice blend of some of the better experienced coaches in the state and some of Arkansas' leading up-and-comers, as well as those from out of state. It wouldn't be shocking if a college coach or two ended up in the stack as well.
A couple of names making the rounds early as possible hires include North Little Rock's Brad Bolding and Pine Bluff's Bobby Bolding, which makes total sense as their father is the athletic director. Only time will tell if either actually applies.
Conway's eventual hiring likely will spark of chain of events that could lead to several coaches moving around.
As happens every year, expect several more jobs to open. At press time, the positions at Centerpoint, Corning, Ozark and Searcy also were open, while at Little Rock Christian, Johnny Watson took his 179 career victories and moved into the school's athletic director's role full-time. The Warriors job wasn't open long, as offensive coordinator Justin Kramerwas named Watson's replacement.
The "silly season" is upon us within the coaching circles.
It's just a shame that it claimed one of the best guys in the business.
ON THE WEB
More Philip Seaton columns are available online at ARKANSAS SPORTS 360.com
SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE
Some of the other Arkansas High School Products that signed to play collegiate athletics
Arkadelphia--ZARE THIGPEN--Ouachita Baptist
Nettleton--JALYNN MITCHELL--Arkansas-Fort Smith
Siloam Springs--COLESON RAKESTRAW--John Brown
Bald Knob--PHAGEH ALTOM--Arkansas Tech
Little Rock Mills--TAMARA ROBINSON--Ouachita Baptist
Mountain Home--DOMINO MILLER--Ouachita Baptist
Pulaski Robinson--A'LAESHIA ADAMS--Ouachita Baptist
Vilonia--AMANDA CURTIS--Arkansas Tech
West Fork--JORDYN FERRELL--John Brown
Bryant--KALEB JOBE--Arkansas-Little Rock
Greenbrier--TYLER HARDIN--Central Arkansas
Hot Springs Lakeside--ART SLATON--Arkansas-Little Rock
Little Rock Christian--DUSTIN WARD--Central Arkansas
Parkers Chapel--TYLER CAMERON--Arkansas-Little Rock
Sylvan Hills--D.J. BAXENDALE--Arkansas
Texarkana--WIL WAGNER--Central Arkansas
Trinity Christian--DUNCAN COLLINS--Ouachita Baptist
Little Rock Central--JOE DORAMUS--Arkansas
Bentonville--LINDSAY PARKS--Anderson (S.C.)
Conway--MARY MICHAEL MAGGIO--Louisiana State
Hot Springs Lakeside--HALEY SANDERS -Missouri-Kansas City
Jonesboro--JENNIFER LOIACANO--Arkansas State
Rogers--LAURA BETH DUBOIS--Central Oklahoma
Wynne--ALYSSA GOODIN--Arkansas State
Fayetteville--LAUREN CALDWELL--Rollins (Fla.)
Nettleton--SHELBY WISE--Michigan State
North Little Rock--JESSICA SHELDON--Centenary
Texarkana--DANIEL MOSER--Ouachita Baptist
Nettleton--KELSIE HODGES--Arkansas State