Harrison resigns position as Elba football coach

ELBA -- Pate Harrison is out as head football coach of the Elba Tigers.

Elba City School board members at a special-called meeting Monday morning approved his resignation in a 4-1 vote, with Kristy Astemborski voting no. Harrison had been on administrative leave since Sept. 17 after an incident occurred on the sideline with his son during a junior varsity game.

Glen Johnson, who was appointed as interim coach in Harrison’s absence, will remain the program’s head coach.

“We will move forward with this,” Superintendent Chris Moseley said. “We know it’s been tough, but we’re ready. I’ve got meetings scheduled with Coach Johnson (who) is interim coach and first thing in the morning (we will discuss) if there’s any changes we need to help him out to be the best he can be for the remainder of the year, and we’ll move forward.”

Harrison was placed on administrative leave after a video circulated on social media depicting a coach, believed to be Harrison, make physical contact to the upper back of a player, believed to be Harrison’s son, and knock that player down.

He had been the head coach at Elba since the beginning of the 2018 season. In his tenure, the Tigers were 11-4. Last season, Elba finished 8-3 with a loss in the first round of the AHSAA Class 1A state playoffs.

Harrison spoke on the incident in a post that appeared on the Elba High School Football website on Sept. 17.

“By now most of you have heard that I embarrassed myself, the Elba football program, and my family,” Harrison wrote. “In 14 years of coaching I have never truly lost my cool until my own child told me to shut up. That is no excuse for me snatching him up, and I apologize to everyone who was there to witness this event. I am truly sorry that my actions has (sic) put the team in a bind and the extra work on the coaches. The program is bigger than any one person and I know the team will continue to be successful.”

At Monday’s meeting, board member DeAnn Grantham said she would like for this situation to bring the community together and make the school system “better.” 

“I’ve received more phone calls or outreach from the community regarding this issue, and I think sometimes our responses might seem automated, but there’s only so much we can say,” Grantham said. “As a school board member and as a parent, the safety of our children is my number one priority. I think as a board, we can all say that. I do want to take this moment to challenge the community. Being a community member is more than just showing up for a game on Friday night. We are a school system that has to have the community support it, and that’s more than a phone call when you have a complaint. So, I want to challenge everybody to ask themselves, ‘When’s the last time you’ve done something to help the school system?’ You’ve got talents, you’ve got time, you can donate.”

Board member Gladys Yelverton also spoke on the decision to accept Harrison’s resignation.

“I think my heart goes one way and my responsibility goes another, but the responsibility is what we must be concerned about,” Yelverton said, “about what is best for our children.”

In Johnson’s two games as interim coach, Elba has defeated Florala 61-34 and fallen to G.W. Long 46-35. The Tigers meet Brantley this Friday night for a key region matchup.

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