Ralph Potter is coming home.
After five years as head football coach and athletic director at Brentwood Academy, Potter has agreed to return to his alma mater and coach McCallie's football program.
"I just really believe McCallie is a better fit for me and the time is right for me to go back home," said Potter, who played quarterback for his father, the late Pete Potter, who coached the Blue Tornado for 21 years. "My five years at BA have given me some clarity about who I am and what my goals and purpose are in coaching.
"After every football season you go through a process to decide if you're going to stay where you are. I've done that every year of my career. When this opportunity presented itself, I thought about what motivates me as a coach and the environment in which I want to work.
"I want to thank the administration at BA because my time there was a beneficial experience for me. I learned a lot. But the environment at BA is much different than at McCallie, and one of the things that stuck out is McCallie's unique approach to developing young men as leaders. It's right there in the mission -- 'honor, truty, duty' -- and working with those type kids appeals to me."
Potter began his head coaching career at Baylor, taking that program to the playoffs all three years, including the quarterfinals the last year, and then spent 10 years as McCallie's coach. His 2001 team finished undefeated and claimed the program's only state championship, and the Blue Tornado were state runners-up in 2006.
It took Potter two weeks to make the decision to accept BA's offer in January 2007, but it was just a matter of ironing out the details over the weekend as he jumped at the chance to return to McCallie.
In his five years at BA, Potter guided the Eagles to a 46-17 record and two Division II-AA state-runner-up finishes. During the same time, McCallie went 24-30, never winning more than six games in a single season, and had two head coaches.
Athletic director Bubba Simmons coached the Blue Tornado in 2010. He will continue as AD and could remain on the football staff as an assistant.
"I feel the football program is moving in the right direction, and I enjoyed the opportunity to lead it," Simmons said. "However, in my position as athletic director, I wouldn't be serving this school if I ignored the opportunity that hiring Ralph Potter offers us. He's a great football mind who has already once led this team to the top, and we believe he can do it again."
Potter, whose overall record is 143-69, had beaten rival Baylor nine consecutive seasons when he left. The Blue Tornado extended that streak two more years after his departure, but Baylor since has won four straight meetings, including once in the regular season and once in the playoffs in 2010.
The Red Raiders have played in the Division II-AA title game each of the last two seasons.
The 48-year old Potter's contract with BA runs through March 30, and he said he will assist in its coaching search if asked.
"I've thought about a lot of things that changed since I left five years ago and what will be different," Potter said. "Maybe the difference isn't any external changes McCallie made. Maybe the change is in me.
"It was such an unknown when I went to BA. From a professional standpoint this is a much more comfortable decision."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has been with the Times Free Press since its inception and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...