Cairo's Field asked for resignation

Cairo High School head football coach Warren Field's season of turmoil just got a lot worse. On Friday, Field, the two-time Times-Enterprise All-Area football coach, was summoned to a morning meeting with Cairo principal Tim Helms and athletic director Carlton Gainous.

After an up and down season in which his (3-7) Syrupmakers were eliminated from the Class AAAA playoffs thanks to a 12-3 loss at Bainbridge, Field didn't expect good news.He didn't expect this.

Helms, himself a former Cairo High head football coach, asked Field to resign his position.

Field, who has been Cairo's head coach for three seasons, winning two Region 1, Class AAAA titles in that time, refused. Unless something happens in the next two weeks, Field's fate will be decided by the Grady County School Board, which will meet on Dec. 10 to vote on Principal Helms' recommendation not to bring Field back for a fourth season.

Helms said he was confident that the school board would back up his recommendation "100 percent."

"They told me that they needed to have a change in the program," Field said of the Friday meeting. "They weren't satisfied where it was going. And they wanted me to resign.

"We talked for a couple hours. I tried to get the reasons, and I was told that based on the type of position I had, they don't have to have reasons. It's a no-tenured position."

Helms felt that even though Field's son, Blake, Cairo's quarterback, would be a senior in 2003, an immediate turnabout was necessary.

"In evaluating this program and what's best for this school, in my professional opinion, we need to make a change," Helms said Monday morning."He's been given some time to make some decisions. But we're looking to take things in a different direction. And it's not because of a 3-7 record."

Though Cairo's erratic play certainly did not help Field's case, Helms insisted that his decision was not based strictly on the won-lost record.

"This is not a knee-jerk response. It's something that has been given a lot of thought and discussion with the superintendent and board members."

Cairo athletic director Carlton Gainous agreed.

"We just felt like we needed to make a change in the program," Gainous said. "Certainly there are inside issues that we're privy to that may or may not come out."

One area that all parties alluded to was Field's hard-driving manner with players and everyone else.

"I'm old school," he said. "I'm not as old-school as I used to be but I'm still old school."

As of Monday, Field was uncertain what lay ahead.

"I don't want to be disruptive," he said. "I've got to think of my family and my son, in particular. But this will be the fourth coach they've had since 1995. Nobody's had the opportunity to graduate a class yet."

Field succeeded former Thomasville High coach Mike Hodges in 2000 after working as an assistant coach with Hodges for three seasons. Field had previously worked in Cairo from 1978-1983 with former Thomasville High head coach Jack Johnson.

"We choose to take the high road on this," Helms said. "We appreciate what Coach Field has done for our program. We just feel like we need to move in a different direction."

"I do want to say this on the record," Gainous added, "in trying to make that thing a success, nobody put in more hours to try to make it work. I firmly believe that."

As a football town, Cairo is known for strongly supporting its coaches and teams. Considering that Field hadn't lost a region game until this season and had won two straight Region 1 titles and compiled a 23-13 record, Helms said he acknowledged there might be a backlash.

"I think the community will trust this administration," he said. "I've seen that in the past and I see this community as one that supports Cairo High School. Cairo High School, the whole program, not just one person, not just the football coach, but Cairo High School."

Helms noted that Field, who has a teaching certificate, would be offered a teaching position in the Grady County School system.

"I'd go so far as to say that we'd like to have Coach Field stay in the system," Helms said. "And our board of education is willing to provide that opportunity. And we'd like Blake to finish here."

Field was not sure what would happen next for him or his family.

"This will be the fourth coach they've had since 1995," Field said. "Nobody's had the opportunity to graduate a class yet. I just hope that they put on my tombstone, 'Well, he tried.'"

Field's peers in the coaching community greeted the news with sadness.

"Warren's obviously an outstanding football coach," Thomasville High coach Tommy Welch said. "It's a crazy business."

"I've been friends with Warren for a long time," Thomas County Central coach Ed Pilcher said. "Nobody works any harder than he does. He's very conscientious. He's just a workaholic when it comes to football and he does such a good job. But unfortunately, those things happen."

Former Cairo and Thomasville coach Jack Johnson, who coached in Cairo from 1978 to 1983, said he was particularly disappointed in the news.

"Being a former coach there, that (move to dismiss Field) doesn't surprise me," he said. "Here's a man who won two region titles and played a schedule this year that was outlandish. He had a couple guys hurt early and you know, a coach can only do so much.

"I guess the way it is over there, whoever the next coach is is just waiting to be fired. It doesn't take them long to be removed.

"I've coached with Warren Field before," Johnson concluded. "He's a hard worker and he's a good man. I feel bad for him and I feel really bad for his son. That's just not right."

This story originally appeared in the Thomasville Times-Enterprise.


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