CLEVELAND - White County High School named its new football coach, and it's a name that will be familiar to high school football fans in northeast Georgia.
Peachtree Ridge coach Bill Ballard was approved by a unanimous vote at a White County school board meeting on Thursday. A press conference to introduce the new coach is scheduled for 10 a.m. today at the school board office.
In nine seasons at Tucker and Peachtree Ridge, Ballard has led his teams to 89 wins and seven trips to the playoffs. He has never had a losing season in that time.
He'll take over a White County team that finished 9-3 (5-0 Region 8-AAA) and advanced to the second round of the playoffs in 2010.
The hire comes on an emotional day for Ballard, who also on Thursday lost his father to cancer.
"It's a very good day for me and my family and we're excited about this opportunity," said Ballard, whose father was diagnosed with stomach cancer in August. "Of course it's hard when you lose your father, it's something no one expects to deal with and be happy about it.
Ballard leaves what is considered one of metro-Atlanta's better jobs in Class AAAAA's Peachtree Ridge, but said finding a small town to raise his three kids, ages 6-12, through high school was a major factor in going to Cleveland.
He also has family ties in the area, including Union County football coach Brian Allison, who is his cousin.
Ballard is a defensive-minded coach, serving as defensive coordinator in past jobs before becoming head coach. He plans on running a five-man front at White County.
"We're going to be aggressive and go after people and try to force them to do things before they want to," he said.
In coming to White County, Ballard reunites with school principal John Osborne. The two were on the same coaching staff at Oconee County in the late 90s, where Ballard served as defensive coordinator.
"We feel like we've got a really strong coach," Osborne said. "We're getting an energetic guy that is passionate about teaching and coaching."
Ballard was chosen from a field Osborne estimates to be 40 applicants. Five finalist emerged from the field, but two dropped out before the interview process began, including Mike Falluer, who left Northwest Whitfield to accept the Villa Rica job. An 11-person committee selected Ballard, who was approved by the board of education.
"We have a philosophy for our top positions to use a committee to find a fit," Osborne said. "So many times you see coaches jump around, so when you put the committee together, the goal is to find somebody that wants that marriage to last as long as it's solid.
"Bill stood alone as far as what we talked about wanting in White County ... He's going to fit in perfectly."
It's unclear when Ballard will begin his tenure at White County. He's currently coaching Peachtree Ridge's track team, and is waiting on word from the Gwinnett County school board on when he can join the Warriors. It's possible he might not join White County until next school year.
The Warriors have been led by interim coach Tommy Flowers, who took over after Gregg Segraves resigned last season after four games amid allegations of spousal abuse. If Ballard doesn't join White County this school year, Flowers will be in charge of spring football practices.
Ballard will meet with his former team at Peachtree Ridge at 7 a.m., then travel to Cleveland, where he'll meet White County's team at 8:45 a.m. at the school before heading over to the ninth grade academy at 9:30 a.m. He'll then attend a 10:00 a.m. press conference at the board office.
Ballard said he's excited about competing in 8-AAA and is up for any potential challenge a reclassification overhaul would bring.
"The current region is very competitive with a lot of good teams and excellent coaching," Ballard said. "And the reclassifcation may help White County based on some of the things I've seen.
"I'm excited either way."