Gainesville City Schools is changing its director of athletics position, a move that appears to leave longtime AD, coach and local sports icon Wayne Vickery out of his job.
Superintendent Wanda Creel said Thursday morning that the district next school year will have a full-time director of athletics and student activities focused on the entire school system rather than just the high school, and Vickery has said he is not interested in that position.
Vickery “is welcome to apply for the new full-time position and he would be considered with any other applicants,” Creel said.
“I really didn’t have any inkling it was coming,” Vickery said Thursday afternoon. “She (Creel) called me up to a meeting … and told me that her and the board of education had decided to go in a different direction and were going to hire someone K-12 that could reach out to the Hispanic population.
“It really caught me off guard.”
School board chairwoman Delores Diaz said the board decided the school system needed someone to “manage and coordinate all the activities we have.”
“It will definitely be a full-time job,” Diaz said. “And this person will oversee athletics, all other student competitions including fine arts, literary meets and things like that.”
Vickery has worked with the Gainesville system for 34 years, much of that spent coaching baseball. He had retired from teaching and was working as a part-time teacher and high school athletic director.
“I’m kind of old school. if it's not broke, don't fix it,” Vickery said. “We're doing good. Our facilities are great, we've got great coaches, we're operating in the black.”
“I wouldn't be there it wasn't for him,” said Gainesville football coach Bruce Miller, whose team captured the 2012 state championship. “His support has been tremendous for me and for the football program. I think it has enabled us to be as successful as we've been. I think a large part of it falls to him because he knows what it's going to take to be successful.
“He bleeds Big Red. He is such a proponent of being successful in athletics.”
During his time as coach Vickery produced five baseball state titles, 12 region championships and a 470-129 career record.
He was a 2006 Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame inductee and joined the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. He finished his baseball coaching career with 17 seasons with at least 20 wins. He was named Region Coach of the Year 12 times, Georgia Coach of the Year five times and was the National Coach of the Year in 2001. He was selected to the National Sunbelt Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.
“Coach Vickery has abundant reasons to be proud of his tenure at Gainesville High School,” school board member Sammy Smith said. “He has been a personal friend for 35 years. I believe he understands the opportunity for a new direction, which the school system is taking.”
“His service to this system has been outstanding,” Diaz said. “He’s served in so many different capacities: as a teacher, a coach and as athletic director. His contributions are numerous, and he’s elevated the level of sports at the high school to the highest level it’s ever been. He’s been a tremendous asset to the system.”
Former Superintendent Merrianne Dyer lauded his accomplishments and dedication to student athletics.
“He will be remembered for the work that people see — working over 100 hours per week to be sure that all athletic events and the athletes were organized and supported,” Dyer wrote in an email. “What people do not see is the hours of work certifying athletes and his relationship with the Georgia High School Association and his level of advocacy with them.”
Dyer said Vickery’s legacies include urging coaches to allow student athletes to participate in multiple activities; helping children in need with book money, Christmas gifts and rides to and from practice; caring for his co-workers, including lawn care and handyman services when they were ill or experienced loss; hiring winning coaches that provided student athletes with greater opportunities; and keeping the athletic department budget solvent during the recession and Board of Education deficits.
“I really haven't had a lot of time to digest this,” Vickery said. “To be honest with you, I haven't slept a lot. I just keep waking up saying, 'What happened?" It just came as a total shock.
“If you coach 34 years, you make one or two enemies a year. … If you're in a leadership role, you're going to make some tough decisions. I made the decisions that I thought were best for Gainesville High School.”
Times staff members Jared Putnam, Kristen Oliver and Shannon Casas contributed to this story.