The problem with “no comment” is, it doesn’t end a story. Rather, it’s like pumping jet fuel into the rumor mill.
Such is the case with the recent uproar surrounding the fate of George Walton Academy’s head football coach.
Shane Davis, who just completed his second season at the helm of the Bulldogs program, was reportedly suspended recently. No explanation was given as to why or even how long, the first question being most intriguing.
It’s certainly not for performance. In my estimation, he just concluded a season with the best coaching job of his long career.
With COVID-19 raging around him, he led a young team — three freshman starters including one at the all-important quarterback position — to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
Consider some of the challenges:
— GWA played in what was the toughest region in the state. League champ Prince Avenue won the Class A private state title while region runner-up Athens Academy had been ranked No. 1 for several weeks during the regular season.
— At one point in the season, because of a virus outbreak at the school, the Bulldogs went an entire month without playing a game, not even getting to practice most of that time.
— The Bulldogs finished a respectable third in their league, forcing them to hit the road for the entirety of the postseason.
Two years ago, Davis replaced a legend in former head coach Don Williams, who was the longest tenured and winningest coach in school history and for whom the school’s stadium is named. Such transitions often go awry but, under Davis, the program is thriving.
But instead of a pat on the back, it appears Davis is being pushed out the door. And why?
I’ve heard rumors of what might have precipitated the action of the school’s administration. If it’s even half true, the suspension sounds trumped up and petty. Most folks it seems are lining up on the side of the embattled head coach.
For GWA, the school in general and the athletics program in particular, the timing couldn’t be worse. The competitive landscape has changed drastically for GWA in recent years. Once the predominant private schools in our area, the 52-year-old institution now finds itself in a crowded field.
Besides the previously established schools in Athens, other privates have propagated like kudzu. And they are doing quite well thank you.
On the sports front, a prime example is Prince Avenue Christian, just a short drive east on Highway 78. The Bulldogs handled the Wolverines easily when the two first joined GHSA back in 2010, winning two of their first three meetings.
Since then, Prince has beaten GWA eight straight times while winning six region titles and finally securing a state championship this season. The Bulldogs have yet to win a league crown.
In any competitive field, if you’re standing still you’re falling behind. After seemingly being stuck in neutral relative to their primary competitors, the Bulldogs appeared set to make some serious headway this coming fall.
Athens Academy and Prince will be suffering some big losses to graduation while GWA is returning the nucleus of last year’s successful team.
I should say they are expected to return the nucleus of last year’s successful team. Losing the man behind the wheel of this fast-moving locomotive could derail the whole process and set the program back for years.
Maybe the move is justified. Standing on principle is much more important than winning football games.
But at this point we just don’t know, and “no comment” is only making things worse.