After building a successful career in the mid-state area for more than 20 years, Ron Crawford is heading east, looking to rebuild one of this area's historically proud programs.
Crawford has been named the new head coach at Cleveland High, replacing E.K. Slaughter who resigned in November after three seasons. Crawford, 50, had been head coach at Brentwood High School near Nashville since 2002, compiling 94-32 overall record and winning the TSSAA Class 5A state championship in his first season there. All but two of his 27-year coaching career has been spent in the mid-state.
"There were several factors that brought me to Cleveland," Crawford said. "There is plenty of tradition in that program, good support from the school and community and I like the fact that it's a one-school system. I know there are two other schools in the county, but it's the only school in they city system and I like that small town feel it has.
"The first thing I have to do is to build relationships with the players, coaches, parents, the school and the community. It takes everybody working together to run a successful program and we have to get the kids to buy into our system. Those people don't know much about me and I don't know much about them yet, but I'm taking leap of faith going there and they are in hiring me. So we need to lock arms, start working together and get things back to where they should be. If we're working together, the wins will take care of themselves."
Crawford's Brentwood teams won four Region 6-5A titles and advanced to the playoffs all 10 years he was there, reaching at least the quarterfinals five times, including last year. Prior to coaching the Bruins, he served as defensive coordinator at Riverdale High School under coach Gary Rankin, winning state titles in 1997 and 2001, and finishing as state runners-up in 1995 and 2000.
Crawford, who played defensive back at Middle Tennessee State, was also the head coach at Coffee County in 1993-94 and has been an assistant at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe and his alma mater, Shelbyville, where his father was a coach.
He said he hopes to add at least two new assistants to the current staff.
Cleveland, which won three straight Class 4A state championships from 1993-95 but hasn't won a playoff game since 2002, finished 5-5 last fall. In 2009 the Blue Raiders suffered through their first losing season in 31 years but rebounded to finished 6-5 and win the district title the following season.
"We are excited to bring Coach Crawford to Cleveland High School," said Blue Raiders athletic director Mike Collier. "He has a proven track record of success in football. We are happy with what he brings to the table for our football team, our school and our community."