Providence High football Randy Long will not return for a 10th season.
Panthers principal Tracey Harrill removed Long from the position and announced it in an email to the schools’ students and parents Friday morning. She said she came to the decision after thinking about Providence’s entire athletic program. She said she informed Long Thursday afternoon.
“We’re going to go in a new direction,” Harrill told the Observer Friday. “Coach Long has been at our school for nine years and we appreciate the time and energy he’s given to our program. We feel it’s time for a change.”
Harrill said the opening would be posted next week and Providence hoped to name a new coach by May.
In nine seasons, Long was 58-50. He had four winning seasons, but none since 2009. Providence was 6-6 in 2010, 2-8 in 2011 and 5-6 in 2012.
In Long’s nine years, Providence played in a conference, the Southwestern 4A, that produced six state champions. Next season, Providence moves into a new conference away from the two schools -- Butler and Independence -- that won those championships. Providence will play with Ardrey Kell, Berry, Charlotte Catholic, Harding, Olympic, South Mecklenburg and West Mecklenburg.
Long said he felt the Panthers’ program -- which only has nine winning seasons in its 24-year history -- was about to make a change.
“I’m disappointed,” he said. “We had things on track and things were going great. There’s a great work ethic there and a great attitude. I was feeling really good about next year and unfortunately, I won’t be there to lead them.”
A Providence parent, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said a group of more than 30 players and parents met with principal Harrill at school Friday morning. At the meeting, Harrill reiterated what was in her letter: she felt it was time to make a change.
“My kid’s devastated,” the Providence parent said. “He’s been in tears all day. A lot of the kids who went to the meeting were devastated.”
Another email, from the Providence booster club, was sent to parents Thursday night, urging them to contact principal Harrill to keep Long.
That email said of Long’s removal, “it appears this action is a result of complaints from parents of players rather than a ‘for cause’ circumstance.”
CMS officials cannot comment on personnel matters directly, though in her email Harrill wrote: “I appreciate the years of work and dedication Coach Long put into our program. While I cannot discuss personnel matters, please know that this decision was not made lightly. There were several variables to consider....I look forward to us moving forward together. It will take the work of us all to embrace a new head coach and a new vision for Providence football.”
Long said he planned to remain in his teaching position at Providence for now.
“We’ll see what the future holds,” he said. “I’m 50 years old and this is the first day in 42 years that I haven’t been on a team as a player or a coach. It’s really tough.”
Here is the email Providence principal Tracey Harrill sent to parents Friday:
Dear Providence Students and Parents:
After serious thought and consideration, I’ve decided to go in a new direction with our football program. Coach Long will no longer be our head coach. We will immediately move to put a plan in place to continue with spring training and we will begin a search for a new head coach. As always, I hope that you trust that I have the students’ best interest at heart.
I appreciate the years of work and dedication Coach Long put into our program. While I cannot discuss personnel matters, please know that this decision was not made lightly. There were several variables to consider.
I look forward to us moving forward together. It will take the work of us all to embrace a new head coach and a new vision for Providence football.
If you have any questions about plans moving forward, please reach out to Coach Lansing or myself.
Have a great spring break.
Here is the email from the Providence booster club that was sent Thursday night to football families:
It has come to my attention there have been rumors circulating today that Coach Long has been asked to step down from his position as Head Coach of the PHS Football team. As Co-Chair for the Touchdown Club and Communication Chair, I have the responsibility to ensure you, as parents of the players, are informed about important events impacting the football program. It appears this action is a result of complaints from parents of players rather than a “for cause” circumstance.
As such, while not intending to advocate or influence you one way or other in this sensitive matter, I do feel it important you are aware of this emerging event. Please take a moment to consider what is unfolding. Coach Long is a man who has been committed to our successful program, is a man who holds a powerful position of influence on our sons, and is the current leader of the team.
You are encouraged to give serious thought to what is occurring and the impact it could have on our upcoming season. You may think this action is justified and that Coach Long did not meet your criteria for a high school head coach. You may think this action is not justified and that Coach Long remains the perfect match for the head coach assignment.
Regardless of your sentiments, your opinion should be expressed. Clearly, criticisms of Coach Long have been sought and shared with the school administrators. It is only fair that school Administrators be entitled to hear from those advocating Coach Long remain in his position.
The most appropriate action is for you to email Principal Tracey Harrill THIS EVENING if you wish to have your voice heard in this matter. Thank you for your active engagement in this important issue and continued support of the PHS football program.