ELBA --- After two weeks of uncertainty, Elba’s administration and coaches were ready to move forward Monday morning, shortly after the resignation of head football coach Pate Harrison.
Harrison, who had been placed on administrative leave Sept. 17 following a sideline incident with his son during a JV game, tendered his resignation to Elba City Schools and the Elba City School Board accepted it during a special-called meeting.
The resignation is for both his physical education teaching role and coaching duties at the school.
“We will move forward with this,” Elba Superintendent Chris Moseley said after the board approved the resignation. “We know it’s been tough, but we are ready (to move forward).”
Glen Johnson, who was the interim head coach during Harrison’s administrative leave, will lead the Tigers the rest of this season. Johnson has been an assistant coach the last 15 years at Elba, his alma mater. As a senior, he played on Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame coach Mack Wood’s first region title team at Elba in 1979.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Harrison family, but we have to move forward and do what is best for the kids, the city of Elba and the school system ,” Johnson said.
Moseley said there have been no discussions beyond this season. In fact, he expects there won’t be any until the end of the season, possibly into the second semester in January.
“I have a meeting scheduled with him (Johnson) first thing in the morning (Tuesday),” Moseley said. “He is currently a physical education teacher at the elementary school. We are going to discuss some things moving forward. He will remain the interim for the rest of this year.
“He may need to move over to the high school and we will fill for him in his (elementary) position to give him the best opportunity to be the best he can be for the remainder of the year. We are not going to jump on a big focus of trying to find a football coach right now. We need to move forward with this season and for these kids.”
Harrison had been head coach at Elba since the start of the 2018 season, amassing to an 11-4 record, including 3-1 this season before his suspension. The Tigers went 8-3 and advanced to the first round of the Class 1A state playoffs in Harrison’s first season last year.
Harrison was placed on administrative leave a day after an incident with his son during a JV game on Sept. 16. It was caught on video, which quickly circulated on social media.
The 11-second video, taken from the press box, shows the player, believed to be the son, coming to the Elba sideline and walking by a coach believed to be Harrison at the 40-yard line. The son walks by and four yards later at the 36, turns his head to the right while still walking ahead, possibly saying something.
At that point, the coach started racing toward the player who continued to walk with his head turned in the other direction. The coach, after getting around another player, made contact with the player in the back upper shoulders with both hands at the 31-yard line.
The video ended right there as a nearby wall blocked whatever action happened afterwards.
Harrison, in a letter posted the next day on the Elba High School Football website, apologized for the JV incident with his son.
“By now most of you have heard that I embarrassed myself, the Elba football program, and my family,” Harrison wrote in his post. “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 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.”
Moseley said he and Harrison had communicated several times since the incident. He said Harrison informed him late last week of his intention to resign.
“We have been in discussions through this entire process, and he let me know late last week that that (to resign) was his plan,” Mosley said. “I got the letters over the weekend.”
Asked if the resignation was forced, Moseley stated, “No sir.”
The superintendent added Harrison’s resignation letter was “pretty straight forward.”
“He did mention he wants what is best for the team, moving on, and at this time, he felt from this incident that it was best he remove himself from Elba City Schools,” Moseley said.
Prior to coming to Elba, Harrison, a New Brockton native, had a successful run at Dale County, guiding the Warriors to a 46-24 record over seven seasons, including a Class 3A state runner-up finish in 2014.
Elba has gone 1-1 under Johnson since Harrison was placed on administrative leave, beating Florala 61-34 and losing to G.W. Long 46-35. The Tigers face Brantley Friday with the winner taking the lead in Class 1A, Region 2. The two teams are currently co-leaders with 3-0 records in region play.
Johnson said the players didn’t seem to be too distracted by the coaching situation or the rampant rumors circulating around them.
“Kids are pretty resilient,” Johnson said. “We haven’t heard a whole lot about it (from them) because they just go about their job. They have done well. They haven’t asked a lot of questions. Like everybody else, they hear rumors and stuff, but as a team we try to stay collectively close together. We are just trying to move forward.”
Johnson was an intern at Elba in 2003 under Mike Waters then began full-time coaching at Samson in January 2004, where he was an assistant softball coach.
He took a job at New Brockton for the 2004-05 school year, serving as assistant football coach and head softball coach. The following year in 2005-06, he joined Elba’s coaching staff, led by Scott Rials in football, and has been at the school since.
During his time at Elba, he has been the head boys basketball coach and assistant baseball coach and was the football defensive coordinator for four seasons under Ed Rigby.
He currently holds titles as JV head football coach and head varsity baseball coach at Elba and now adds head football coach to the mix.
He has been a part of two state championship football teams at Elba (2011, 2015) and one in basketball (2013-14) as well as a state runner-up team in both (2014 in football, 2014-15 in basketball).
“I am just filling in for as long as Mr. Moseley needs me,” Johnson said. “I can’t say it isn’t in the back of my mind (to be permanent head coach). I did apply one time in the past, but things didn’t work out. I feel God has a plan for everybody, so I will just pray and seek His will and whatever happens, happens.”