Path is there for football team to overcome structural challenges

This story was originally published in the fifth edition of The Lion’s Tale (March 26, 2021). 

The football program has always been a staple in the student culture at Oviedo High School. Many great players and coaching staffs have come and gone over the years, including an NFL playoff game-winning quarterback, but somehow the team has failed to clinch that coveted 8A state championship.

One reason may be the coaching staff turnover, at least as of late. Since the beginning of the 2019 2020 school year, the football program has had four different head coaches. This includes Matt Dixon, DJ Mayo, Kolby Tackett and the recently hired Greg Odierno.

Having to frequently adjust to different coaching styles and playbooks can prove to be a challenge even for a team talented enough to be in contention for a state title.

A major potential reason for this pattern is the driving force behind most programs- money. In Seminole County, the supplement for a head coaching position is $3,804. According to their teacher contracts, neighboring counties in Florida, such as Orange County and Osceola County, have supplements for head coaches ranging from $4,112 to $5,313. This disparity eventually drives coaches to other schools in search of better pay.

In one particular case, former head coach DJ Mayo left the program before coaching a single game because he was offered the offensive coordinator position at Camden High School in Kingsland, Georgia. In comparison to the case in Central Florida, the supplement for his new job was $10,000.

Tackett, who left in February for a job at a school in Tennessee after a 5-5 season at OHS, also indicated money played a part in his decision.

When you can only pay a head coach about a third of what he could make somewhere else as a coordinator, you’re at a serious disadvantage in hiring and keeping qualified candidates. According to some players, the team was devastated by his departure before a single snap had been taken in the season.

Unfortunately with high school football, some student transfers are unavoidable. Oftentimes, players from schools that don’t go too far into the playoffs transfer to more established schools with winning records and state titles in search for a championship ring.

Sadly, this appears to be the case with the recent transfer of a star quarterback at Oviedo. Sophomore Luke Rucker, the starting quarterback for the 2020 season, was a dynamic talent and breathed new life into the offense. According to his Twitter account, Rucker transferred to Seminole High School, the previous year’s 8A state championship team.

This means Oviedo will face the additional challenge of selecting a new varsity starting quarterback in time for the fall.

The coaching pay is a problem, but one that other county schools face and can be surmounted. Fortunately, new coach Odierno seems in it for the long run. He should be able to build relationships with players and give the team a solid foundation built on trust and commitment. This will also help further remove the stain of the recent hazing scandal. Look for Oviedo to return to the roots of its strong football tradition in the future.