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Staff file photo / Veteran football coach Wayne Turner said Tyner Academy principal Gerald Harris told him the school would be going in a different direction and that Turner would no longer be leading the program after 30 seasons in charge.

There is a sign that hangs on the doorway leading out of the Tyner football locker room that reads "Success is not owned, it's rented. Rent is due every day."

For more than 30 years, Wayne Turner made sure those who played for the Rams put in the daily work necessary to maintain one of the city's most successful programs. But Turner's time as head coach at Tyner ended shortly after Friday night's playoff loss at Trousdale County as he told the team that school administrators had informed him they wanted to go in a different direction with a new coach and asked for his resignation.

"I wasn't given a choice," Turner said Saturday. "The school principal (Gerald Harris) had asked me to resign a few weeks ago, but I told him I wasn't ready to make that decision. He told me that the school would be going in a different direction and I would not be the head coach anymore. Ever since I've been at Tyner all we've done is win and go to the playoffs, so what kind of new direction do you want to go in from there?

"I don't think it's right. I believe I've earned the right to leave the way I wanted to unless I've done something for them to run me off. At least I shouldn't have had to tell the kids in the locker room immediately after we had just had our season end with a tough loss. It was tough for me, but it was really tougher for the kids, and I felt bad for having to tell them like that, honestly."

While Tyner has had just one man in charge of its program since Turner took over prior to the 1991 season, the Chattanooga area's 38 other Tennessee teams have combined to make 227 coaching changes.

The stability helped build the Rams into one of the most successful programs ever in Chattanooga, which included 11 seasons of 10 or more wins, 16 region or district championships and 32 playoff victories. Tyner was the first Hamilton County public school to win a state championship, doing so in 1997, and the Rams finished as state runners-up in 1996 and 2017.

"Coach Turner is a staple of Tyner," Harris said. "I've got so much respect for him and appreciate all he has done for the program and the school."

The principal did not elaborate on the reasons for wanting Turner to step down.

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Staff file photo by Robin Rudd/ Tyner football coach Wayne Turner is out after 30 years leading the Rams.

The Rams reached the playoffs in 27 of Turner's 30 seasons, but Friday's loss snapped a six-year run of advancing past the first round. The Rams came into this season having won three straight region titles but had a 14-game region winning streak snapped at Bledsoe County in September and finished this season 4-5 overall.

Turner steps away with an overall record of 235-141, with 231 of those wins coming at Tyner, where the field is named in his honor.

"I remember after I won the 200th game of my career I was presented a plaque that congratulated me and said 'A Ram forever,' but I told my coaches that after last night, I ain't got no Ram blood left in me," Turner said. "That's just the way I feel because of the people in charge of the school who made this decision.

"I thank all the kids who've played for me for their commitment and loyalty, and they know how I feel about them. It was never about wins and losses for me as much as it was about building relationships. What I wanted in my career was to help young people move in the right direction to make something positive out of their lives. I hope I've done that."

Tyner failed to make the playoffs each of the five years before Turner's arrival and had never won a playoff game before he guided the Rams past Kingston in 1996, the first of four playoff wins that season as they reached the Class 3A title game.

After a college career at Southern Mississippi, in 1976, Turner returned to Chattanooga and his high school alma mater, Kirkman, where he was an assistant under Carey Henley, who had also been his coach. He took over as the Golden Hawks' head coach 10 years later, and when the school closed its doors in 1990, he moved across town to Tyner.

From 1985 to 1995 Tyner was a competitive program, compiling a 61-53 overall record and making the playoffs four times, but the Rams had lost all eight postseason games in school history to that point.

Then, from 1996 to 2005, Tyner turned a corner and put together an impressive 204-27 overall record, winning fewer than 10 games in a season only once. The Rams won 60 of 61 region games by an average score of 44-8 during that 10-year stretch, and starting in 1994, Tyner put together a streak of reaching the playoffs in 20 consecutive seasons.

Also during that time the program had 36 players to sign college scholarships, including 16 with NCAA Division I programs. The state championship team had seven players sign scholarships, including linebacker Kelvin Hughley with Georgia Tech, receiver Anthony Jones with Vanderbilt and lineman Cortez Stokes with Memphis.

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.

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