Norton school board votes to bring back Adams

Kevin Mays • Jun 11, 2019 at 1:29 AM

NORTON — There will not be a new direction for the J.I. Burton football program this fall.

Following a decision by the Norton City School Board early Tuesday morning, the Raiders will continue under the guidance of veteran coach Jim Adams.

The board, after meeting in a closed session for over three hours, soundly rejected a recommendation from the school system’s leadership team by voting 5-0 to reappoint Adams as Burton’s football coach.

The upcoming season will be Adams’ 22nd as head coach. He has been involved in Burton sports for the last 39 years.

Last week, School Superintendent Gina Wohlford informed Adams that the system’s leadership team planned to recommend the school board not renew his coaching contract for the 2019 season.

The coach was emotional after the vote.

“It’s been very hard on the family. But sometimes when you put things in God’s hands, the right thing occurs,” Adams said. “It’s not about me. It’s about the program and the kids. It’s a lot bigger than this old man.”


During Monday’s meeting, several people spoke in favor of the school system keeping Adams as the football coach at Burton, including Adams himself.

“Whatever decision you make is a lot bigger than I am,” Adams said. “It’s going to affect the school ... and it’s going to affect our fair city. And it’s going to affect, most importantly, the players.”

The coach also addressed allegations of sexually harassing female students.

Adams was suspended last year while law enforcement and social service officials conducted an investigation into allegations that he had sexually harassed female students that were in his classroom.

The investigation found no wrong doing by Adams and completely exonerated him. He was allowed to return to teaching and coaching following the investigation.

Two former students, however, addressed the school board about the matter. While they did not specifically name Adams in their comments, former students Taylor Collins and McKenna Kennedy both claimed that he made inappropriate comments to them while they were in his classroom.

“He used words like hot, sexy and kinky,” Collins said while standing at the podium.

Kennedy told the board Adams made unwanted, inappropriate comments.

At Monday’s meeting, Adams denied the allegations and said he did nothing with malice toward any student.

“If I’m guilty of one thing, I’m guilty of sometimes when I see a young lady walking down the hall looking down at her feet I try to lift her up, and I’ve been told that in this day and time in this society that’s not acceptable and I don’t do it anymore.”


“People speak against you for no reason, betray you and try to keep you from your successes. But the answer is in God,” said Adams. “Our natural response is to often fight back, get even and put people in their place. When all we need to do is to trust in God.

“God said he would defeat the enemy and deal with him when you obey Jesus.

“He will bring everything hidden into the light. He will avenge you. He won’t let enemies speak against you. He will prepare a table for you. He will help you defeat the real enemy.”


Adams played football at Burton as a student and started coaching at the school 39 years ago.

He is one of the longest-tenured active football coaches in Southwest Virginia, directing the program for the past 21 years, with 174 career wins, including 31 postseason victories.

During his run as head coach, Burton has made five trips to the VHSL state championship game.

The Raiders have won six district and six regional titles under Adams.

This past season, Burton won its latest title, the Cumberland District championship and finished the season with a 9-3 mark.

The playoff run for the Raiders last season marked the 17th straight season that Adams has guided Burton football program to a postseason appearance.

Adams also served as Burton baseball coach for eight seasons before resigning last year.