When one door closes, another opens

Chris Hughes with former Williamston head football coach and ECU staff member Harold Robinson.
Chris Hughes with former Williamston head football coach and ECU staff member Harold Robinson.

While attending this weekend’s Eastern North Carolina High School Football Coaches Association clinic in New Bern, I ran into an old friend, a man with tremendous insight into our sport, and someone who’s still got enough in the tank to make a positive impact on high school sports and the coaching profession.

With the departure of head football coach Ruffin McNeil from East Carolina University last month, the football offices went through quite a shake-up as newly hired head coach Scottie Montgomery began assembling his staff.

Obviously a new addition to Montgomery’s staff is a very bright and seasoned head coach from the high school ranks in Antonio King who led Durham Hillside for seven years while compiling a 73-19 record and winning the 2010 4A state championship. While I’m very happy for King, a very good friend of mine, it also shines a light on the business of college football where other good men were given their walking papers.

Harold Robinson, the very successful head football coach at Williamston who led the Tigers from 1979-2003 and guided the program to two 1A state championships and two other runner-up finishes, had served as ECU’s Director of High School Relations for nearly a decade.

Now Robinson is left searching for the next chapter in his long career of serving the youth and public school institutions of our state.

While we live in an era where many schools want to hire the young coaches who can bring youth, energy, and enthusiasm, I still think there is a place for a veteran coach such as Robinson.

While he may not serve as a head football coach again, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of him, nor do I think he’s stopped his quest to further high school football in North Carolina, or do what he does best, helping kids and coaches.

Sitting down with Robinson during breakfast on Saturday, I was face to face with a man who was somewhat beaten down because of his recent departure from his alma mater, but deep down I could see into his eyes that he wasn’t finished. Listening to the coach talk, you could still hear the fire, and a determination that will find a way to get back into the game.

As we walked through the hallways of the clinic, you can see the reverence and respect that Robinson commands, and in a short amount of time, he had already received some job offers to become an assistant coach at a few top programs. Now while I think any coach would love to have such a seasoned man like Robinson on their staff, I personally feel he’s much more valuable to coaches as a whole across the entire state.

I would like to see the North Carolina High School Athletic Association look at his talents and connections, and allow him to serve in some capacity as a liaison between the association and the coaches. I’m not sure what position he could fill yet, but I have no doubt that Robinson would be the right man for a position of that kind where he could work in close communication with our leaders in Chapel Hill, as well as our coaching body. Yes I know we have the North Carolina Football Coaches Association, and North Carolina Coaches Associations, but can we ever have too many advocates for coaches, or voices that carry the weight his does from his decades of public service and education?

Of course if nobody else see’s his value and hires him immediately, I’d love to work with the coach on a day to day basis, but when you have a person with his knowledge, passion, and commitment to this game, and student athletes in general, keeping Harold Robinson in this business is a win for everyone.

About Chris Hughes

Chris Hughes is the senior football analyst and founder of CarolinaPreps.com. A life-long student of the game, he brings a unique perspective of the game from multiple angles, including that of a former coach. His work has been featured both locally and nationally, including FNF Magazine, Scout.com, and ESPN U.