After 15 seasons as Carroll County’s head football coach, an emotional Tom Hale announced his retirement as the team’s coach Friday after the Cavaliers’ 77-28 win over Patrick County.
Before addressing his team at the conclusion of the game, Hale told reporters Friday’s victory was his last game as coach. With 78 victories, Hale leaves as Carroll County High School’s all-time winningest football coach.
During his tenure, Hale guided the Cavaliers to five of the eight best seasons in school history. His 2003 team won a school record 10 games en route to the Region IV, Division IV semifinal. His 2010 team won eight games, third best in school history. Hale’s teams also won seven games three times – in 1999, 2000 and 2005. To put that in perspective, in the 29 years prior to Hale’s arrival in Hillsville, the Cavaliers only won seven games or more three times in the school’s history (winning nine games in 1997 and seven games in both 1977 and 1990).
Hale also led the Cavaliers to seven of the 12 playoff appearances in school history, including both of Carroll County’s playoff victories (against Abingdon in 2003 and Bassett in 2010). From 1999-2010, Hale’s teams averaged six wins per season. In the 29 years prior to his arrival, Carroll averaged just 3.7 wins per season.
Victories were harder to come by for the Cavaliers over the past three seasons, however, with Carroll winning three games in 2011 and two each in 2012 and 2013. After Friday’s win, Hale said he felt like maybe it was time for the program to move in a different direction after Carroll’s first season in the River Ridge District.
“This is my last game. It’s my choice. I had three losing seasons and just feel like it is time to do something else,” Hale said. “It was a tough decision. The new district is tough. I spent a lot of time working, and I just felt like it is maybe time for a new approach here. I need to step back and do something else. I have been doing it for 31 years, so it is time to step back and see if I can do something else. I am not retiring from education. I am just giving up the coaching end of it and I am going to kick back and see what else I can get into.”
Hale didn’t close the door completely on a return to coaching, but he said it’s definitely not in his immediate plans.
“We’ll just see. I am not planning on anything to be perfectly honestly,” Hale said. “I am happy where I am. As far as teaching goes, I don’t plan on moving anywhere.”
After a 3-7 campaign in 1998, Hale took over the program in 1999 with a team that was not expected to do much. The Cavaliers ended up winning seven games that season and made the Region IV playoffs. He said he is proud of the legacy he has left at Carroll County.
“I came in here a young coach 15 years ago. I thought I knew it all. I found out real quick that I didn’t. But overall I look back and I am proud. I think I developed a good, solid program here,” Hale said. “People respect Carroll County. They know we are going to be competitive. We are well coached. We’re on the map. I think a lot of people realize with our schedule right now, we are at a little bit of a disadvantage athletic-wise.”
Hale said he was also proud to have started new fitness programs at Carroll County that have now spread over into all sports at the school.
“When I came here there was no fitness programs, and I started all of that. Now every sport here has started a conditioning program. I can look back and have a lot of pride of what I got started here. Everybody has bought into it, all the girls’ teams have fitness programs and they are either in afterschool fitness or in a class, so I am real proud of that,” Hale said. “But I am most proud of my coaching staff. I have coaches on my staff here like Coach (Brandon) Harner, who has been with me since the first day I was here, and Coach (Mark) Harmon and Coach (Rick) Nester. I am real proud of my staff. Those guys have been with me every step of the way, so that means a lot to me that they wanted to stick with it all those years. I couldn’t leave without saying how much I appreciate those guys.”