After four months without a permanent head football coach, Grundy County (Tenn.) Schools has named Scott Smith to serve in the position.
The high school has been without a head coach since Oct. 11 after the attempted aggravated rape of a 14-year-old freshman by his teammates.
Smith has been hired to teach as well as coach and has 27 years of experience, according to a Tuesday news release. Over the years, Smith has taken five different teams to either the state playoffs or a post-season bowl game.
"I am excited to be back in Middle Tennessee and being the head coach at Grundy County," Smith said in a statement. "Last year, I decided to step away from head coaching and just to be an assistant coach, but found that my fire and passion was still there for being a head coach."
In December, board members asked Director of Schools Jessie Kinsey to narrow a list of roughly 30 applicants down to three and return for discussions about salary.
A nine-person committee was appointed by Kinsey to help in selecting the three final candidates in early January. It wasn't clear who made up that committee, and claims have surfaced that only a few applicants were interviewed.
One of the finalists, Brandon Eden, withdrew his name in January, citing family reasons, the news release states. And after this month's board meeting, a second finalist, Mike Ray, withdrew his application. Ray's withdrawal was "due to board meeting conduct and the athletic committee interview process," according to the news release from Kinsey.
"This series of applicant withdraws left Coach Smith as the only remaining finalist for the head football coaching position," the news release states.
The school board has repeatedly postponed discussions of a new coach, largely because several members felt they should be privy to who the director was planning to hire. This was important to them because Kinsey would not disclose which candidates she was considering but had asked for more money to be moved to the budget for the coach's salary and board members wanted to make sure the most suitable candidate was hired.
"It's our responsibility to take care of the county's money," board member Reuben Newsome said at the Feb. 8 board meeting. "Even though it's [the director of school's] place to hire, we still have the right to make a recommendation."
At January's board meeting, members agreed to postpone the vote to move more money into the budget for the coach's salary until this month's meeting, with the expectation that the board's athletic committee also would interview the candidates.
That interview took place Feb. 7, but no decision was made then. However, on Feb. 8, some board members asked to reopen the job posting to give other applicants who were allegedly never interviewed a chance to be evaluated by the board's athletic committee.
And now that Smith has been hired, some board members are still unhappy with the move.
"Kinsey's appointment of Scott Smith could be the biggest gamble our sports program has ever seen," board member Kasey Anderson told the Times Free Press in a statement. "This one decision could very well determine the future of GC football for years to come. Coach Smith has to be able to smoothly maneuver our children through this difficult transitory period. It's all about bonding, and healing right now for these players. Without the right glue our program could very well fall apart but with a strong bond these children are destined for success."
After the Oct. 11 attempted rape, former head coach Sherman "Casey" Tate was "removed from any and all responsibilities related to the football program" after investigators found information showing that he had in some way facilitated the students' access to the field house where the attack occurred. The field house was supposed to have been locked at the time.
Then-assistant coach Greg Brewer briefly took over as interim head coach but was also relieved of his coaching duties after investigators learned that he also had played a part in making the field house available.
It was not clear what part either man played, but investigators said the doors were left unlocked or propped open, allowing the students to enter the morning of the attack. Neither of them have been charged in connection to the attack.
Nick Meeks was named interim coach for the remainder of the school year until a permanent head coach was hired.
This story was updated Feb. 13, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. with more information.