For the first time in more than a decade, New Waverly ISD is searching for a new head football coach and athletic director. Late last month, the Bulldogs’ longtime boss Bob Eastland resigned from both positions after 15 years on the job.

Following a long string of successful football seasons, the Bulldogs fell on hard times of late, going a combined 1-16 in the past two years.

Eastland told the Item after he resigned that he thought it was time to make a change. He said he will always have special memories of his coaching days in New Waverly, but it was probably best to let someone else take over the day-to-day operations of the Bulldogs’ athletic program.

“This gives me an opportunity to spend more time with my family and dedicate to them as my No. 1 priority,” Eastland said. “It also gives me some time to sit back and make some decisions about my future.

“It has been a great experience in New Waverly for the 17 years I’ve been there. I want to thank all the kids from 1989 to 2006 that I’ve had the opportunity to teach, coach and build relationships with in the community of New Waverly. ... I want to thank my (assistant) coaches this year because they all did a good job. I also appreciate the work of coach Mike Hancock, who was here for 14 years, and Bill Goffney, who has spent 11 years in New Waverly.”

Oddly, Eastland said some of his fondest memories came during the 2005 football season. The Dogs struggled through a 1-7 campaign, but according to their head coach, they never hung their heads and always worked hard.

“Through the 17 years I’ve been in New Waverly, I’ve had a lot of great memories, and one of the highlights was the tremendous courage that this year’s football team had, its work ethic and its dedication to New Waverly football,” he said.

“I know success is right around the corner, but those younger guys just have to keep the same attitude that the seniors left around there this year.”

Shortly after football season ended, Eastland said he went to his boss, New Waverly ISD Superintendent Clay Webb, and asked to be reassigned.

“I will teach for the remainder of this school year and handle other administrative duties, then I will have an opportunity to teach here next year, if that’s what I choose to do,” Eastland said. “I’m kind of at a crossroads right now on what I’m going to do.”

After two seasons as an assistant coach with the Bulldogs, Eastland took over the football program in 1990 and posted an 85-67 record in 15 seasons as head coach. He won five district titles, the last of which came in 2002 when New Waverly rolled unbeaten through the five-game 24-2A season.

In 1999, the Dogs went 7-0 in 20-2A play and beat Troup in the bi-district round of the state playoffs before falling to Big Sandy in the area round.

Last year, the Bulldogs went 0-9, and this fall, New Waverly only won once in eight tries.

Webb believes that rough stretch played a part in the coach’s decision to resign.

“He thought about it for a long time because this is a career decision,” Webb said. “At this time, he felt it was the best decision right now for him professionally. A couple of losing seasons in a row have been kind of hard on him.

“This was his decision. He made the request to be reassigned.”

In addition to his coaching duties, Eastland has taught government and economics at New Waverly High School.

“He’s a good teacher. There are no difficulties there,” Webb said.

Difficulties between Eastland and the New Waverly community have been rumored for years. After going winless in 2004, those rumors became loud grumbles.

One of his former star players was certain that Eastland did not leave coaching on his own. Paul Donelson said last month that Eastland likely opted out because the community pressured him to resign.

“I’m surprised by the news that he asked to be reassigned. I guess the community forced him to leave because he would not do this on his own,” Donelson said. “My little brother (Johnnie Hill) is on that team, and I heard rumors about that earlier this year.

“Criticism of a coach happens everywhere, but in New Waverly, they take their football very seriously. One win in two years, you can’t put that all on the coach. The players are responsible, too. It’ll be interesting to see what’s going to happen down there. Maybe a coaching change is what the school needed, but I’m sure he’ll be rooting for New Waverly whoever the next coach is.”

Donelson left New Waverly and became a all-conference player at Sam Houston State. He credits Eastland for helping him become a standout football player and an upstanding young man.

“Coach Eastland was a player’s coach. You could talk to him about pretty much everything,” he said. “He’s been in New Waverly for a while. He’s a good X’s and O’s coach. He’s also a good guy.”

The vacant job was posted on the Texas High School Coaches Association Web site, and the district received several applications immediately.

“We’re looking for somebody with a minimum of three to five years’ experience, and experience of being a head coach is preferred,” Webb said. “We want someone who fits our idea of the total athletic department, someone who’s committed to excellence.”

Applications were taken until Dec. 21, and now New Waverly ISD’s Board of Trustees will screen the applicants and choose a group of five or more finalists. Those coaches will be interviewed and Webb will come up with his choice, he hopes some time in January.

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