It's a bittersweet season for one East Texas football team and their coach. The Whitehouse Wildcats are currently 9-0, a first in school history.
Friday night they'll be facing off against the John Tyler Lions as both teams fight for district title. Regardless of if the Wildcats win or lose, coach Randy McFarlin's games at the school are numbered. The school board did not renew his contract.
"In coaching, there are two kinds of coaches, those who have been fired and those who are going to be fired. I almost made it into the first group, but it's always shocking when your superintendent brings you in and tells you, 'You're through,'" says McFarlin.
After this Friday, the post-season is all coach Randy McFarlin will have left to look forward to as his time as a Wildcat comes to an end.
"Everybody says, where are you going coach? I don't know at this point. I do not think my ministry is done. I know there is something special for me... I just have to seek it out," he says.
Last spring his contract renewal was denied. For what reasons, he says he still doesn't know.
"Just come out and tell me the truth. I'm a coach of 35 years. I can handle the truth," he says.
It's fate the community tried to change. In August, they held a rally... selling "Keep McFarlin" T-shirts and circulating a petition they hoped would make the district reconsider their decision to let the coach go.
"He has turned this town around. Whitehouse wasn't a football town until he got here. We've gone to the playoffs six years in a row. We had back-to-back ten win seasons in 2006 and 2007. I just feel like he's something special to this town," Jacob Johnson, a former Whitehouse football player, said back in August.
After last Friday's win against Corsicana, community members took to Facebook expressing their frustration with McFarlin's departure.
"I still don't understand what the superintendent and/or board are thinking. Coach McFarlin is one of the best examples for the kids on and off the field," one Wildcat fan wrote.
Someone else posted a photo of McFarlin surrounded by his team and saying a prayer. One comment on the photo reads, "Wildcats 9-0! How can the school get rid of that man praying with our sons?"
We went to the administration to try and ask these questions. Superintendent Daniel Dupree declined to talk on camera but gave us this statement:
"Coach McFarlin tendered his resignation effective at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. The district accepted that resignation. The district appreciates Coach McFarlin's contributions to our athletic program over the course of his employment. Beyond that, I do not intend to discuss personnel matters through media outlets."
"The hardest part to take is the school board. I've got friends on the school board. I go to church with them. I respect them. My wife taught their children. I've coached their kids. I call them friends, and yet they've given no support in this situation," says McFarlin.
Jim Nipp with the Whitehouse Band Boosters says the football team's success has helped other school programs, too.
"When the team is successful, the stands are full. When the stands are full, the concession stands get a lot of business," Nipp says.
That business is the primary fundraiser for both the band and other athletic programs.
"It is really an enterprise on a Friday night," he says.
For McFarlin, keeping his job isn't the toughest battle he has had to fight in recent years. Two years ago this month, he and his family were in a terrible car crash. At first doctors didn't know if he would live. McFarlin spent 38 days in ICU.
"Whitehouse is special because I should have died. The prayers of Whitehouse brought me back, and the kids of Whitehouse is the only thing that kept me going," McFarlin says.
McFarlin says he'll keep going when his contract ends in June-- he just doesn't know where. But, he does know that he's leaving a program better off than when he found it.
"No staff in the history of this program has been able to do what our staff has done. So that tells you that there's something special about what has gone on in Whitehouse the last 9 years," he says.
McFarlin says above anything else, he wants to be sure that the person replacing him continues to build on what the Whitehouse athletics staff has done, and always puts the kids first. The district says it is their intention to hire the right people to help their students achieve success.
Tuesday, August 19 2014 4:10 PM EDT2014-08-19 20:10:07 GMT
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