By ALEX PODLOGAR
SANFORD — Eric Puryear has finally met with the Southern Lee administration.
And he didn’t like what he heard.
While he maintains that he has neither resigned nor has he been fired, Puryear told The Herald on Thursday that it is unlikely he will be the Cavaliers’ head football coach next season.
“I would like to (be the coach), but I can’t envision it, no,” he said.
Citing differences over the time frame in which he is to receive his teaching licensure, as well as moments in which he feels he has been “misled”, Puryear said that he believes his standing as head football coach is on shaky ground.
“It’s been a lack of communication and a lot of miscommunication for about a month now,” said Puryear, who said he met with Southern Lee Principal Bonnie Almond and Athletic Director Tammy Batten on Wednesday. “Basically, I just finally had an opportunity to sit down with the principal and the athletic director to see what direction this was going in. From my meeting, I left with the feeling that I just will not be coaching here next year.”
Last month, a job posting for a head football coaching position at Southern Lee appeared on the state’s jobs board online. At the time of the posting, which Puryear says came as a surprise to him, Almond called the move “cautionary”.
“The advertisement put on the Web site is cautionary and due to the terms of (Puryear’s) contract and the requirements he’s got to meet by June 14,” Almond said on March 22.
Almond stood by that statement on Thursday, but did not comment on Puryear’s feeling that he would not return next season.
“That decision has not been made,” Almond said. “Right now we’ve got our assistant coaches running spring training, but that decision has not been made at this time.”
When asked whether she would like to have Puryear coaching the program again next season, Almond said, “I am not prepared to make that statement. Right now we are in the decision-making process.”
In March, Almond, citing personnel issues, said she could not comment further on Puryear’s contract or the requirements he had to meet. Puryear came to Southern Lee in July 2009 after successful stints as a position coach and coordinator at the small college level. While he has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, Puryear’s field is not education, and says he has been taking courses in High Point since his arrival to receive his licensure.
But the dates of the licensure deadline are in question, Puryear says. He says he believed he had until June 30 to receive his teaching certification, and states that he is on track to complete his coursework by then. But he contends that the administration first told him the deadline was June 1, and that the date changed again upon Almond’s comment to The Herald. Puryear also said that the first he heard of the June 14 date was when he read The Herald’s article.
“That would not be my field of expertise,” Almond said. “Since I am the principal I do not handle licensures. The requirements would be handled by the state.”
Almond said she would refer Puryear to the state’s human resources department to clarify any discrepancies concerning teaching certifications.
“I appreciate the opportunity I’ve had to be the coach here, but at the same time I don’t feel like I have had the same support since I’ve been here,” Puryear said.
“I will have the licensure by the time the state department of instruction says I need to have it — June 30,” Puryear added. “But I won’t have it by the time frame (the administration) is trying to make me honor.”
Even with the deadline debate, Puryear said he believes the administration could find a way to work around it and allow him time to receive his licensure.
“I feel like there are a lot of different ways this could be handled,” he said. “They’ve said all along that continuity has been important to them, and personally, if they really wanted continuity, I think they could find a way for me to be here next year and not be forced to have their third coach in three years again.”
Should Puryear leave the school and the program, Southern Lee would again find itself trying to lure a new head coach after spring workouts have already begun. After their two most successful seasons coming in their first two varsity seasons under inaugural coach Bryan Lee, the Cavaliers have spiraled through controversy and mounting losses.
Following Lee’s resignation to move closer to his hometown in Illinois, Southern Lee hired first-time head coach Bill Mazcko, who as a position coach was part of a successful South Carolina program at Cheraw. But Mazcko’s tenure didn’t last a year, and after a series of complaints from parents for his handling of players, Mazcko was forced out of the job last year.
Puryear was hired to replace Mazcko by a Southern Lee administration led by then-principal Rob Dietrich. “I think Coach Puryear will do an outstanding job for us,” Dietrich said in June when Puryear was approved by the Lee County School Board.
But Puryear’s first season trying to rebuild a 1-9 Cavaliers team ended in 2009 without a single victory, though there were no public complaints for his treatment of players. And since the job has been posted, Puryear says he has been discouraged by the administration from leading spring workouts in preparation for the 2010 season.
“I feel like this is such an injustice to the kids,” Puryear said. “They want to know something, and they’ve basically been without spring ball for three years with all the coaching changes. I’ve basically been asked to not do spring workouts.”
But Puryear reiterates that he has not left the position.
“I haven’t been fired and I haven’t resigned, but the job’s been posted,” he said. “My biggest thing is for the kids. They deserve to know what’s going on, that there’s likely to be a change and that they should prepare themselves for it.”