This is Part 1 of a three part series on the Alabama Football Coaches Association. This section will include a brief history of the ALFCA and the people involved since its inception in the spring of 2005. Parts 2 and 3 will include a candid conversation with ALFCA Executive Director Jack Wood.
It was December of 2004 and the AHSAA had decided to move the North South All Star Football Game from its normal summer perch of Montgomery and try it right after the playoffs concluded. The game also included juniors for the first time instead of seniors. They shipped everyone off to Troy University where the campus was pretty much deserted with students out for Christmas break. There are advantages to playing that game right after the season, but the weather, which was unusually cold that December for south Alabama, was not one of them.
The best part of the week in Troy was the meals. The Troy cafeteria went all out three times per day and there was always ice cream at the end of each meal. It was hard for a coach not to gain a little weight. When coaches sit around and eat, they eventually talk football and so it was back then. The discussion had gotten around to sports other than football, which at the time were pushing for longer seasons and more playoffs onto an already crowded AHSAA calendar. There had been some discussion about eliminating spring football and football coaches were trying to figure how to get their players in the weight room while participating in other sports. Soon the discussion was about solutions and someone suggested that a state football coaches association might help with some of the issues
Sitting at the end of the table was Bill Clark the South squad's head coach. At the time, Bill was the head coach at Prattville High School. Across from him was Jamie Riggs, the head man at T.R. Miller and the South's defensive back coach. "That's sounds like a pretty good idea to me," Riggs said. Coach Clark chimed in, "if you set up a meeting, I will get us a place to have it in Prattville."
Thus was the beginning of the Alabama Football Coaches Association.
On Wednesday March 9, 2005 the organizational meeting of the ALFCA gathered at the Legends in Prattville. Over 50 coaches attended from all over the state. Clark and Riggs gave their vision for the organization and the group put together a committee to write by laws. A month later, that committee met and hammered out some by laws to govern the association. That group also voted to hire former Hewitt Trussville coach Jack Wood as the executive director of the ALFCA. "We have no money to pay you Jack," Riggs told him. "So you better get out and find us some sponsors if you want to get paid." The committee was comprised of some of the state's best coaches at the time - Terry Curtis of UMS, Skeebo Whitcomb of Cottonwood, Jackie O'Neal of Reeltown, Robert Higginbotham of Tuscaloosa County, John Grass of Moody, John Holladay of Hamilton and Josh Niblett of Oneonta. The committee agreed to serve as the first board of directors.
The hiring of Coach Wood was the key element to the success of the ALFCA. He grew up in Wetumpka where he played football and wrestled and graduated from Auburn University. He served as an assistant coach at Auburn High for 10 seasons before becoming the head coach at Hewitt Trussville in 1983. His Husky squads went 141-78 during his 19 year tenure and his 1992 team was state runner up. Coach Wood has done just about everything in Alabama high school football. He served twice as the head coach of the Alabama Mississippi All Star game and served on the Central Board of the AHSAA as well as the executive board of the National Federation of High Schools. He also served as president of the Alabama High School Athletic Directors and Coaches Association. Coach Wood was inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.
Since taking over as executive director of the ALFCA, Coach Wood has kept the association on firm financial footing through sponsorships and the ever growing membership. He has overseen the highly successful ALFCA Convention and Coach of the Year Banquet and secured Coach of the Year rings for the winners through Balfour. Coach Wood created a wonderful scholarship program that has given out over $350,000 worth of aid. He has also served on the Power 5 Board, a national group with members from the AFCA, the NCAA, the NFHS and the NFL that was created to promote football and secure the game for the future. His leadership is valued by other state football associations, and he stays in regular contact with directors from a number of states. Most importantly Coach Wood has fostered a great relationship with the AHSAA, and the two organizations have worked hand in hand to improve all aspects of football as the game has progressed and changed in the past few years,
"I enjoy this job and look forward to doing it a good while longer," Coach Wood said recently. "It is an honor and a pleasure to serve the football coaches of the state".
ALFCA president Terry Curtis says that the work of Coach Wood as a coach and director of the ALFCA has made him one of the most important figures in the long history of high school football in the state. "He has done a great job of promoting the game and keeping it important in Alabama," Curtis said. "His influence will be felt in high school football for many days to come."
Seventeen years after its humble beginnings, the Alabama Football Coaches Association still exists to serve the coaches of Alabama. In parts 2 and 3, Coach Wood will talk about the association in detail and what coaches can do to become a bigger part of the ALFCA.