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Our View: Firing of football coach results in bewilderment




Tuesday was not a good day to be a Falcon. 


That was the day Columbus Municipal School District Superintendent Philip Hickman abruptly fired its head football coach, Randal Montgomery, in a meeting that the coach said lasted no more than two minutes. 


The firing shocked the Columbus High family and the larger high school football community in the state, where Montgomery's reputation remains in high regard. 


Montgomery said that he was not given a reason for his dismissal, other than "we wanted to go in a different direction."  


To date, Hickman has refused to speak to the media about the decision, nor did he speak with school board president Jason Spears. By law, the school board must approve any personnel changes. 


In some situations, administrators are hesitant to speak about firings because it violates the employee's right to privacy. 


But in this instance it is clear that Montgomery waived that right. He would like to know why he was fired. He is not the only one. 


No one will argue the Falcons had a tough year in 2017, finishing with a 2-9 record and a six-game losing streak to end the season. 


Disappointing as it may have been, most knowledgeable observers placed low expectations on the team coming into this year.  


After two straight playoff appearances -- the Falcons had made the playoffs just once in the nine years prior to Montgomery's arrival in 2014 -- Columbus High fielded a young, inexperienced team this year.  


Seven players from last year's team had signed to play at four-year or community college schools, including Kylin Hill, one of the finest players to ever grace the field at CHS. Hill was rated as one of the top running backs in the South and is currently playing as a freshman at Mississippi State. 


Those loses, combined with key injuries, led to a difficult season.  


Even so, observers noted that Columbus played hard, had few of the disciplinary issues often associated with losing teams and gained valuable experience. Montgomery looked forward to next season with optimism based on the experience his team had gained this season. Presumably, brighter days were ahead. 


Until Tuesday. 


In his four seasons, Montgomery's record was 20-26. Admittedly, it pales in comparison to the 43-4 record he posted in four years at Hazlehurst, the job he held before coming to Columbus. But every coaching situation is different. Montgomery inherited a program that had a long way to go. No one could have reasonably expected a quick fix. 


Montgomery earned high marks from players and coaching peers. He had earned the confidence of those in the program, with the notable exception of the school superintendent, it appears. 


Coaches are hired and fired on the basis of winning and losing, we realize. 


The next school board meeting is Monday at 8 a.m. at Brandon Central Services. We suspect Hickman will provide some justification to the board for the firing then, if not before. 


Who knows? If the board finds that answer unsatisfactory, Montgomery may yet return to coach the Falcons' football team. 


Maybe Monday will be "a good day to be a Falcon." 


We shall see.



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