By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
Anthony Hart had too good of an opportunity to pass up.
The head football coach of the two-time MHSAA Class 4A state champion Lafayette High Commodores – a program that has gone 32-0 in the last two seasons and finished 2011 as the state’s top-ranked team regardless of classification – stepped down on Friday to become Lafayette’s athletic director.
Hart, 46, will replace Jeff Nelson, who is retiring after the school year, on a full-time basis as the school district’s AD beginning July 1, 2012.
“I knew a few weeks ago that this probably was going to happen,” Hart told the Daily Journal. “I’ve been mulling it over, just thinking about it.”
Eric Robertson, Lafayette’s defensive coordinator the past seven seasons, will replace Hart as the football program’s head coach. Robertson also was Lafayette’s interim boys basketball coach for the 2010-11 season.
“We got some talented juniors coming back who got to play a lot this year,” said Robertson, a native of the Delta town Sledge, who was Oxford High’s defensive coordinator for three seasons prior to his arrival at Lafayette. “We still got some talented players coming back.
“While we may be losing some good ones, we also got some good ones returning.”
The 2011 ‘Dores capped off their second consecutive state title run and 16-0 season thanks to last Saturday’s 39-29 championship game victory over Laurel at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson.
This season was Hart’s seventh as the Commodores’ head coach. His teams were a combined 80-16 during that span.
Before arriving at the Oxford-based school, he served as Franklin County’s head coach for three seasons. The 2009 Daily Journal Coach of the Year was also the head coach at Loyd Star, his alma mater, for two years. He even won a state championship in baseball as West Point’s skipper in 1988.
He said he isn’t burned out from coaching, but the opportunity to become a full-time AD at Lafayette was something he couldn’t pass up.
“Football is a big, big part of my life,” said Hart, who told his players Friday morning of his decision to step down. “But it’s not my life. I got other things in my life that are important.”
Hart has three children – Daniel, a sophomore at Mississippi State; Derek, a senior at Lafayette High; and Betsy, a third-grader at Lafayette.
Hart will remain as Lafayette’s assistant principal for the next semester while assisting Nelson with AD duties. Hart will no longer be assistant principal when he takes over the AD duties full time.
“The big thing for me is that there will be minimal change for the kids,” Hart said about the transition atop the Lafayette football program. “It’s important to me that the football players have minimal change.
“The biggest part of this is that we’re all here to do it together.”
The Oxford Eagle was the first to report Hart’s resignation.