April 7, 2010 9:45:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- It''s official Jamie Mitchell is the man who''s charged with leading Starkville High School football back to prominence.
News broke a month ago that Mitchell, who compiled a 40-10 record in four seasons at Itawamba Agricultural High School, had been tabbed as Starkville''s coach.
Tuesday night, the Starkville school board made it official as Mitchell was voted to take over a program coming off back-to-back losing seasons.
Mitchell replaces Bill Lee, who has announced his retirement.
Mitchell has been in this position before and he admits rebuilding programs has become part of his reputation.
The former Tupelo assistant and Olive Branch head coach was anxious to get back in the competitive Class 6A, Region 1 ranks, while also jumping at the chance to return to Starkville, where he received his undergrad from Mississippi State.
"I''ve made a living getting programs back on their feet and I know the tradition that''s in Starkville," Mitchell said. "I love Starkville and it''s a tremendous opportunity for me and my family to go back to an area we love."
The decision to leave Itawamba, especially after a 13-1 season, was "the toughest choice I''ve ever made," Mitchell said.
He built Itawamba into one of the powerhouse Class 4A programs in the state, but after talking to incoming Starkville athletic director Stan Miller, Mitchell knew he had the chance to build something special at the highest level in the state.
Through meeting with Miller and members of the Starkville school board, Mitchell was sold on the potential to build a winner at Starkville, which lost to Madison Central in the first round of the 6A playoffs this past season.
"The interview process was very fair and good," Mitchell said. "They had some great applicants, guys that would have done a great job. Dr. Miller is the one big reason I stayed in the mix and I''m sold he''s going to do everything I need to be successful. Not many places can hire someone like him with the background he''s got."
Part of Mitchell''s challenge will be "recruiting the hallways," as many believe Starkville''s lost talent is idle in the classroom. The Yellow Jackets saw low numbers affect depth in each of the last two seasons, though injuries hurt the team from the start of last season.
Starkville has one of the lowest Class 6A enrollments in the state, but Mitchell sees the challenge no different from any of the other rebuilding efforts he''s led in the past.
"I think any time you go in, you''ve got to sell your program to the kids who are there," Mitchell said. "There are some kids who aren''t playing that need to be. I think that''s a big part of it, getting every player in the high school to be out there.
"We''re going to break our necks trying to get every kid we can on the field."
The first opportunity for Mitchell to get his recruiting process in gear is at noon Thursday, when Starkville will hold a press conference to officially announce and introduce the 20-year coaching veteran.
The press conference will be held in the Starkville library as Mitchell and his family will meet players, parents and fans.