Published 6:40 pm Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Opp football coach Jack Whigham was relieved of his coaching duties Tuesday afternoon by superintendent of schools Michael Smithart.
Whigham has been the head coach for the Bobcats since 2006, and has compiled a 40-46 record.
The former coach said he wasn’t going to “quit” on his players when asked if he decided to step down in the first place.
“I was relieved of my duties (Tuesday) at about 1:40 (p.m.),” Whigham said. “I wasn’t going to quit. I know we’re going to face some challenges next year athletically a little bit, and I knew it was going to be a big challenge.
“I talk to the kids all the time about not quitting,” he said. “It wouldn’t be setting a good example if I had quit.”
Whigham, an OHS graduate, spent a number of years as an assistant at T.R. Miller under Jamie Riggs before taking the helm of the Bobcats’ team and the school’s athletic programs.
During this past season, where the Bobcats finished 5-6 and in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs, Whigham said he felt after his team lost to Andalusia in week five that he would be let go. Whigham has only beaten AHS and Straughn, the Bobcats’ two main rivals, once each in his tenure at the school.
“I knew inside myself about four weeks ago when we lost the Andalusia game. I just sort of had an inkling that it came — that it was coming,” he said. “The bottom line is that I haven’t won enough games.”
Smithart said in a statement that this was the right time for a change.
“We certainly appreciate Coach Whigham’s commitment and dedication to Bobcats’ athletics and our football program,” Smithart said. “At this time, we feel a change is necessary to continue to move our program forward and reach the level of expectations we have for our football team.
“We will begin the search for a new head football coach in due time,” he said. “There is no timetable for naming a replacement.”
Whigham said not winning enough games was what he thinks is the main reason for him being dismissed.
“We live in a state where the last four (college) national champions are from our state, and winning is important in our state,” he said. “Me personally, and I know being a math person, that logically, that’s the reason. There may be some other reasons. If there are, that was not related to me. The reason related to me was that we haven’t won enough. I can’t argue about that.”
Winning more times than once each over Andalusia and Straughn would’ve helped a lot, Whigham said.
“We’ve made the playoffs five out of the eight years,” he said. “There’s only been eight region championships at Opp High School, and we’ve won two of them. So, we’ve done some good things.”
The Bobcats had a lot of talent this year and the coach said that he wasn’t able to “maximize” the talent the team had.
“I disappointed a lot of people, nobody more than myself,” Whigham said. “The expectations were real high going into the year. We didn’t live up to those expectations. In whatever job you have, if you don’t live up to expectations, then they’ll find somebody else to do that job for you.”
Whigham said what’s next for him is up in the air right now, and that he doesn’t know whether he’ll remain as the school’s athletic director.
One thing that Whigham has tried to do while at OHS is help the other athletic programs.
“I’ve tried to build our girls programs,” he said. “I’ve tried to make sure that everybody had what they needed, equipment-wise and facility wise. Time-wise, equipment-wise, I’ve tried to make sure that our kids are dressed well, they have the quipment they need and the clothing they need.
“I’ve tried to make sure that our coaches do a good job in the classroom as well as in coaching. That’s important to me. I’ve always tried to do a good job in the classroom,” he said.
In addition to his coaching duties, Whigham teaches math, and having to teach advanced placement geometry classes took a toll on him, he said.
“That’s not an excuse by any means, but a factor,” he said.
Whigham said he wanted to let everyone know that he’s done his best while at the school.
“I know that they’ll get a good football coach here, that there are a lot more people more qualified than I am to coach football — I understand that,” he said. “But, everyday that I’ve had this job, there hadn’t been three nights in the eight years that I’ve been here that I’ve gone home and said that I didn’t give Opp High School their money’s worth today. I believe I’ve worked extremely hard to try to put a class program together.”
Whigham said he appreciates each and every one of his coaches who have come through the program. That they have done an outstanding job while in their posts on the team.
“I’d like to commend them for their character and how hard they’ve worked,” he said.
More importantly, Whigham said he hopes people will remember him as a man who worked hard for the team.
“I care about all kids, regardless of their color, regardless of where they live, regardless of their socio-economic status,” he said. “I’ve tried to be fair and tried to be a mentor to all of those kids. There have been some I’ve been able to reach and some I haven’t been able to reach, but at the same time, the ultimate judge on whether or not I was successful — as a Christian — I know I’ll be judged on the relationships I’ve formed in the future. I’ll know then whether or not what I did was right or not.”
Additionally, Whigham gave a hearty “Go Bobcats!”