BLOUNTVILLE - It's official. After weeks of speculation, Scott Nelson has been hired to take over as football coach at Sullivan Central High School.
Nelson currently is an assistant football coach at Sullivan East under his brother, Ralph.
The decision was announced Wednesday by Evelyn Rafalowski, Assistant Director of Schools over Human Resourses and Athletics for Sullivan County, and Central High School principal David Ward.
There were 40 applicants for the job and six made it to the interview process.
"Scott's overall confidence, his football knowledge and what he brings to the classroom made him an excellent choice for us," Ward said. "We think this is a very good fit for Sullivan Central, both on the field and in the classroom."
Nelson currently teaches at Vance Middle School and will come to Central with a background in biology and physical sciences.
"We wanted someone who would not only be successful on the football field but in the classroom as well," Rafalowski said. "And we think Scott can also be a great role model."
Nelson played his high school football at Sullivan South and collegiately at Carson-Newman.
"I feel very excited to have this opportunity," Nelson said. "Obviously, there is a lot of work to be done. But there is great community and school support, so I know that the foundation is there for Central to be able to compete for conference championships."
Nelson takes over a football program at Central that has been on hard times of late, going 0-10 in 2006. Having coached under his brother at East, Scott has some history with struggling programs.
"When we went to Sullivan East, they had lost 33 games in a row," Central's new coach noted. "I think what I learned from that situation is that turning a program around is doable. If you look at last year the Cougars were in a lot of close games. The signs are there, we just need to build things back up."
Ward emphasized that one of the goals coming into next year is to shore up the middle school feeder programs.
"We've had some very successul middle school teams in the past," the principal said. "But somewhere along the line we lose kids, either to other systems or sports or they just don't continue to play football. We have to change that."
Nelson concurred. "It's all about getting out and seeing the kids in the junior programs and at the middle school level. You don't want them to see you for the first time when they come out for high school football. You've got to cultivate a relationship so that they want to be a Cougar football player."
Mike Hooks stepped down as Central's coach midway during the 2006 season. He was replaced temporarily by Gary Surcey, who drew praise from Ward for his performance in the interim.