Suspended Americus-Sumter head football coach Michael Pollock said he will be listening to the game on the radio on Friday and rooting on his kids as he waits for the Sumter County Board of Education to sort the matter out and determine whether he will return to the Panthers' sidelines this year, or ever.
AMERICUS — Michael Pollock is officially out as Americus-Sumter High School’s head football coach, and Chris Wade is officially in.
For now, anyway.
How long this current arrangement — which was handed down late Monday night by the Sumter County Board of Education in a three-sentence statement during its weekly meeting — is in place, still remains to be seen.
“Coach Pollock has been placed on paid administrative leave until further notice, and that’s all I can say about it at this time,” Sumter County Superintendent Donnie Smith said in a telephone interview with The Herald on Tuesday. “And as of right now, there is no timetable in place (to discuss the matter further). If you call me in a couple of weeks, I may know more then. But right now, that’s where it stands.”
The “it” is the messy situation allegedly created by Pollock, who is in his third year, two weeks ago when — according to multiple sources — he kicked one of his players in the rear end during practice. While the matter was being investigated at the time, the Sumter County BOE was tight-lipped on what was rumored to have occurred and why Pollock was suddenly missing in action. Last week in an interview with The Herald, Smith refused to confirm or deny that Pollock had been suspended — calling his absence from the sidelines simply a “personnel matter” — but Smith did confirm Pollock was not permitted to coach the team in its Week 4 game against Macon County and wouldn’t be on the sidelines when the Panthers played Albany this past week in their Region 1-AAAA opener.
Americus won both games and is now 3-1 overall, while the wins propelled the Panthers from outside The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll to a rise to No. 4 in the most recent rankings released Tuesday.
Pollock, to his credit, has not shied away from the firestorm of negative attention his suspension has brought on himself and the school. He spoke candidly to The Herald last week when The Herald first reported the story, saying what he could about the matter while it was actively under investigation while also wishing the team the best in its upcoming game and asking that the players continue to meet expectations the coach set before the season began.
Pollock did much of the same Tuesday.
“As odd as this may sound, all I care about right now is these kids having success on Friday nights,” he told The Herald. “Me? I’ll get through this one way or another. The sun will shine another day, but you only get one chance to play high school football, and all I care about is them, their experience and their growth.”
Pollock, who said he had “no indication what the outcome of the situation would be,” added that he “wanted badly to be out there with his team” and ultimately he “felt bad” for his players. He also said that he hoped none of them wasted their time or energy feeling bad for him.
“I just feel bad for the kids, the distraction all this has caused. But they’ve handled it well these last couple of weeks, and I expect they’ll continue to handle it well,” Pollock said. “So far, though, they’ve done an outstanding job of maintaining their poise and focus.”
Wade, meanwhile, has done a solid job thus far in Pollock’s absence of directing the Panthers, who have outscored their last two opponents by a combined 77-18, including a 43-0 rout last week in their Region 1-AAAA opener against Albany. Wade is a former Americus assistant coach who was brought back two years ago by Pollock when Wade was hired to be the team’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
“We’re not talking about (coach Pollock’s situation) at practice. We won’t allow it, so I don’t really know what the kids’ reaction was to the news,” Wade said Tuesday after learning of the Sumter’s BOE’s official statement on the matter. “I’m sure they’re talking about it amongst themselves, and that’s fine, but it doesn’t come to practice. They know they’ve got a job to do when they’re out there (on the field) and all we’ve seen is them continuing to work hard. They know this thing will just have to run its course and we have to worry about what we can control week in and week out.”
Pollock commended the job that Wade and his fellow assistants have done the last two weeks.
“I’m proud of them. I really am. Chris and (defensive coordinator Chris) Lamb have shown a lot of leadership, and I feel they’ve maintained the vision for the program that I set in place three years ago when I got here,” said Pollock, who added he’s had no official contact with any coach or player with the team during his suspension.
The Herald No. 4 Panthers return to the field Friday at Worth County, and while Pollock won’t be on hand, he will be keeping tabs.
“I’ll be at home, listening on the radio, getting updates — just like I was two weeks ago, and just like I was last Friday,” Pollock said. “I feel like these kids are mine, like we’ve grown up together. I think the world of them. I just want them to be successful.”