SANFORD — It’s official now.
When a job posting for a head football coach at Southern Lee appeared on the state jobs board online in March, it came as a surprise.
That’s because the school still had Eric Puryear on staff.
There is now an opening.
Puryear said on Tuesday night that he feels it is better that he steps aside, leaving Southern Lee only 10 months after he was hired to replace the embattled Bill Maczko. Puryear will also leave his teaching position.
“I did appreciate my time spent in Sanford and I know that I was appreciated by the kids,” Puryear said. “The upside for the program is tremendous with the right coach and the right people around that coach. I have worked my tail off for this program, and you can see it by the success we have had with track this season, placing a 4 x 200-meter team in the state meets while four of the six members are all sophomores.
“I love the kids and wish them nothing but the best. I am currently looking for another position and have had some interest, but this time, I am doing plenty of research to make sure that it is the right position.”
Internet rumors have been circulating for weeks that the school was deep into the interviewing process, with a new hire potentially imminent. Puryear said he hopes that’s the case.
“I think it’s good for the kids that someone gets here and gets here soon,” he said. “I worked my tail off for the program through three sports and (the players) are much better off now than before for whoever gets the job.”
Attempts to contact Southern Lee Principal Bonnie Almond and Athletic Director Jolanda Clunie were unsuccessful on Tuesday night.
The job was originally posted near the end of March. At the time of the posting, 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, citing personnel issues, would not comment on what those requirements were.
Last month, after meeting with Almond and Assistant Athletic Director Tammy Batten, Puryear said he left with the feeling that he would not be back to coach the Cavaliers in the fall.
“I would like to (be the coach), but I can’t envision it, no,” Puryear said in early April.
And with the start of spring football workouts picking up, Puryear was told by the administration to refrain from participating with the program.
When asked on April 8 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.”
Six weeks later, Southern Lee will now move on to hiring its third coach in as many seasons. The Cavaliers, who reached the playoffs in their first two seasons under the program’s first coach Bryan Lee, finished 1-9 in 2008 under Maczko, who was forced out after allegations by football parents of abuse.
Puryear came aboard in July 2009 after successful stints as a position coach and coordinator at the small college level. Charged with rebuilding the program from the ground up, Southern Lee was winless in Puryear’s first season, but there were no public complaints of the coach.
“Eventually my time will come again,” Puryear said Tuesday.