Jeremy Stanford’s tenure as head football coach at Woodland is over, and now the school will be in a mad dash to find a new coach for the rapidly approaching 2019 season.
Stanford informed his players and the Woodland administration Monday morning that had resigned, effective immediately, to take a position on Keith Etheredge’s staff at Oxford High School.
“I was given an opportunity at Oxford that I couldn’t pass up, to be a varsity assistant to work under Keith Etheredge, a successful coach,” Stanford said. “And it gives my family hopefully a better situation for myself and my wife and our son, hopefully a better situation for us long term.”
For Woodland principal Brett Waites, the news was unexpected.
"We were surprised," Waites said. "It was definitely a shock for us."
Etheredge was hired at Oxford this past May in one of the more high-profile coaching changes in the state.
Since building a powerhouse and winning four state championships at Leeds from 2006-15, Etheredge will be at his third school in the last four years. He spent two seasons at Pell City before coaching last season at T.R. Miller. He was hired at Oxford to replace Ryan Herring, who resigned to move to Georgia.
Stanford’s role on the new Oxford staff has not yet been specified.
“I’ll be a varsity assistant,” Stanford said. “My duties haven’t been defined completely yet. Coach Etheredge and I have been in conversation, but I’m not 100 percent sure what position yet.”
Woodland's summer conditioning program will be run by remaining assistants Lane Gay, Scottie Pattillo and Charles Wood while the search for Stanford's replacement commences.
The timing of Stanford’s move – four weeks before the official start of fall practice – puts Woodland in a race against the clock to find that replacement. As part of Randolph County Schools, Woodland must comply with the system’s consent decree and publish the job opening for a minimum of 14 days before hiring a new head coach.
Stanford acknowledged the difficult timing of the decision but said his new opportunity was too good to pass up.
“I think this is the only job at this time of the summer that would have propelled me to make that decision,” Stanford said. “It was too good to turn down.”
Stanford went 5-15 in his two seasons at Woodland and endured some tumultuous stretches during his tenure. Almost exactly one year ago the program seriously considered canceling its 2018 season after several key players had decided to either transfer or not play.
The community rallied around Stanford and the program to keep things afloat then, but dwindling numbers have continued to plague Woodland’s team.
Over 30 players dressed for Woodland’s 2018 spring game, but that number fell to 25 during last summer’s offseason workout period. Woodland did not participate in a spring scrimmage this year, and as of about two weeks ago, the number of players in grades 9-12 attending summer workouts stood at 16.
Despite those numbers and a now-empty head coach's seat, Waites said there is no imminent threat to the life of the program.
"I think everybody's still pretty dedicated, and this community will rally," Waites said. "They always do. They're real good about being supportive and helping. We're kind of in a tough spot right now, but we'll just have to work through a tough situation and make the best of it."
Stanford declined comment when asked about the state of the program he is leaving but had nothing but positive remarks when asked about his time at the school.
“I’ll forever be grateful for the opportunity I had at Woodland,” he said. “It was a good opportunity for me to get in and have an opportunity to be a head coach. The relationships that I built with these kids that either have graduated or are there now, I’ll always remember those. It’s been a great opportunity for us, and I wish them nothing but success in the future"