Northeast Tarrant

The Lonnquist Notes: GCISD athletics department turns upside-down with high-level departures

This story continues to develop; check back later for updates.

On Monday afternoon, the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent school district’s athletics department turned upside down.

▪  Director of Athletics Phil Blue was on his way to West Texas to be formally approved by the Abilene ISD school board as that district’s new AD.

▪  Colleyville Heritage head football coach Darren Allman became the Carroll ISD’s new athletics director.

Both are starting as soon as possible. Now, the GCISD is looking for its third leader in three years between the AD and CHHS head football coach. The aspirations the district had for ushering in a new era in which both Colleyville Heritage and Grapevine would compete for state championships must start again.

This is nothing short of a nightmare for Superintendent Dr. Robin Ryan. When he created the Executive Athletics Director position in the fall of 2013, he had the best intentions. He wanted to find someone who would work with the athletic coordinators at both high schools to create a symmetry so each had the foundation to win consistently.

All Dr. Ryan had to do was look across Highway 26 and see Carroll winning big year after year. You can’t fault him for wanting to reach for the brass ring. Competition can bring out the best qualities.

And really, it was set up perfectly. Blue, who had a deep background as an AD and built a solid reputation in Georgetown, started in February of 2014. He could hire his own head football coaches – both Mike Fuller and Dave Henigan had left – to advance the mission.

Blue found Plano East’s Randy Jackson in mid-April and placed him at Grapevine. He then found Allman at Austin Westlake in late April and sent him to Colleyville heritage. Both teams made the 2014 playoffs.

It only lasted a little more than 14 months. Blue’s history of working in Abilene made this move happen – rapidly. He said Monday he was days away from closing on a house in Colleyville when he got a call from Abilene officials Friday night asking him to come out and interview for the position. It became too good of a situation to turn down.

“There was a transition period early, for sure,” Blue said. “I had made that transition in Grapevine-Colleyville and the programs had started to move in the direction we had hoped. I was not looking to make a move. I had every intention of finishing my career here.

“Both [Abilene and GCISD] are similar. But the structure in Abilene of how the athletic programs are going fits my skills. There’s a comfort level because I’ve been there before. There’s wonderful people in Abilene, just like Colleyville and Grapevine. It just seemed like a good fit.”

That’s why I think he jumped at this chance. It was probably a better fit than the one he had at the GCISD. Plus, he said he’s not taking a pay cut for this move.

Obviously, if you’re looking at this from afar and seeing two powerful individuals from the same district leave on the same day, it does make you consider the oddity of it.

Regardless, what is important is trying to get GCISD athletics back on proper footing.

Colleyville Heritage is going through spring football and the program is now in the hands of defensive coordinator Judd Thrash, who has been named interim head coach.

The timeline for making the right two hires is really tough, because the school year is about to end. There are many distractions right now.

Ryan has tough choices in front of him. District protocols notwithstanding, he could promote assistant athletic director Bryan Gerlich as Blue’s successor. Then the search for an assistant AD could begin.

Ryan could also open the search and begin an official process. He may also just tab Gerlich as interim AD. Carroll set a precedent of not being held to a fast track after Kevin Ozee’s departure last year. That district waited six months before it hired Allman.

But what happens to Colleyville Heritage? Will the GCISD seek a new head coach for 2015 at this relatively late point in the process?

If it were me, I would keep some sort of interim status for both Gerlich and Thrash indefinitely until the process nets those who give the district the most confidence. The GCISD wants to put itself in a position where it can compete for state championships. The searches should then reflect that. If the answers are both Gerlich and Thraish, fine.

This is not the summer anyone in the GCISD was expecting. But this is the reality. As uncomfortable as this is for the coaches, student-athletes and support staff at both high schools, this too shall pass.

Another new chapter is coming.