Sam Harp, who guided Danville to seven state championships in 25 seasons as its head football coach, is leaving the school to become the coach at Lebanon (Tenn.).
Harp was in Lebanon on Wednesday for the announcement that he will become that school’s coach. The Wilson Post of Lebanon reported that he was introduced at the school by its athletic director.
Harp did not return calls seeking comment, and Lebanon school officials could not be reached for comment, either.
However, Harp told a Nashville, Tenn., newspaper that he felt it was time for a change.
“I’m looking for a new challenge, and I feel like I’ve done everything I can do at Danville and it’s time to turn the page and move on,” Harp told The Tennesseean. “My daughter is excited, my wife is excited and I am, too.”
Harp will move to within a short drive of daughter Kila, who lives in Hendersonville, Tenn., and her family.
The news came as a surprise to many in Danville, who had no inkling that Harp was taking another job.
Danville principal Aaron Etherington said Harp’s shoes will be difficult to fill.
“It does leave a big hole to fill in our athletics program and in our district,” Etherington said today. “The great thing about this, and I talked to Sam last night and told him that I admire him that he has this opportunity to move closer to his family. What that means is Sam has been successful, and he’s a winner. If there’s one word I could think of to describe Sam Harp, it’s ‘winner.’”
Vaughn Little, one of Danville’s assistant coaches, said at mid-afternoon Wednesday that he hadn’t heard anything about Harp’s departure.
“I have no idea about that,” Little said. “He hasn’t said anything to us. But I’m sure it wouldn’t be difficult if he decided he wanted to do something different, it wouldn’t be difficult at all.”
Danville held its football banquet Tuesday night, and Harp gave no clues about his impending departure then.
Harp retired from teaching several years ago, and taking a job in another state will allow him to draw his Kentucky teacher’s pension as well as a full salary from Lebanon.
“It’s just time for me to make a move,” Harp told the Tennessean. “Obviously, I¿can double-dip in this move, but I’m also looking at it as a second career opportunity. It’s always a hard decision any time you leave some place, as long as I’ve been there and with the success I’ve been able to have there. Sure, it’s tough, but family is more important to me, and that’s a huge reason for the move.”
Etherington said he has already heard from coaches who are interested in replacing Harp.
“I’ve gotten a few emails from people who are interested, and I’ve heard from people in the community who have suggestions,” he said. “That just signifies that this is a special place and this is where winners are.
“Our football team is something that the school takes a great deal of pride in. For a school our size, we’ve accomplished a lot of great things through our athletics. A lot of people are going to take interest in it because of the success that’s been built here.”
Harp has coached Danville to seven of its 10 state titles. During his tenure, the Admirals won Class AA championships in 1989, ’91, ’92 and ’94 and Class A titles in 2000, ’01 and ’03, and his teams were undefeated in 1992 and ’94. The Admirals were also state runners-up four times under Harp, who had only one losing season.
He has a 276-72 record in 25 seasons at Danville and is 326-106 in 32 seasons at three Kentucky schools — Calloway County, Anderson County and Danville — ranking him No. 5 on the list of Kentucky's all-time wins leaders. He is one of seven coaches to have won 300 games in Kentucky, having reached the 300-win mark in the opening game of the 2010 season.
He is also a member of Danville's athletic hall of fame, and the school’s athletic complex on Stanford Road bears his name.
Lebanon, a Class AAA school located about 30 miles east of Nashville, went 1-9 last season and has gone 20-41 since its last winning season, a 6-5 campaign in 2006. Its previous coach, Troy Payne, resigned in October and went 3-17 in two seasons.