Richard Hyatt: District needs athletic director

January 14, 2014 

My bags were hardly unpacked when I started to work on a series of columns about the need for a citywide athletic director in the Muscogee County School District.

Forty-one years later, here I am again writing a column about the need for a citywide athletic director in the Muscogee County School District.

The issue is on the table for next week's school board meeting and, as it has in the past, the proposal could set off a spirited debate.

Superintendent David Lewis has recommended the hiring of an athletic director to govern sports programs in the city's 20 middle and high schools. Six finalists are being interviewed this week and Lewis plans to present his choice on Tuesday.

The discussion began with Braxton Nail in 1973 and continues with Lewis, who became superintendent in July. Even when times were flush, there were doubts about the need for such a position.

The job was talked about over the years but wasn't filled until 2004 when former Shaw High football coach Charles Flowers got the job. He left to return to coaching and in 2007 former Columbus State University administrator Gary Gibson was hired.

Four years later, then-Superintendent Susan Andrews made Gibson her executive assistant in addition to his job as athletic director. He stayed in that dual role until last year when he left to become superintendent in Taylor County.

Lewis intends to downgrade the job again. The reconstructed position will pay $66,666 a year and the AD will answer to the Chief Student Services Officer.

Written in Human Resources jargon, the job description says the AD will provide every student an opportunity to participate in an extracurricular athletic activity that will foster physical skills, a sense of worth and competence, a knowledge and understanding of pleasure of sport, and the principles of fair play.

The AD will handle scheduling, transportation purchasing and compliance. This person will be a liaison between the school district and organizations such as the Georgia High School Association, Columbus Sports Council, Columbus Convention and Visitors Board, Columbus Parks and Recreation Department and the news media.

It is hardly the job Nail envisioned years ago. At that time, people talked about how a system-wide athletic director would improve the product on the playing fields. In today's world, the job will require a skilled sports administrator more than it does an old coach.

To me, the responsibilities of the job should be expanded. Working with principals, the athletic director should have a voice on the hiring and firing of head coaches in the individual schools. Coaches are educators first, but someone should be in a position to judge their abilities in their respective sports. We'll know more come Tuesday night.

-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at

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