Fall 2020 is seven months away, but Friday’s news was a shot of eagerness for football season.
Social media reaction to Greenwood’s hire of Chris Liner as the school’s seventh head coach was almost entirely positive, with people commenting about their happiness that Liner and new Greenwood athletic director Sparky Hudson will try to “bring back the old Greenwood.”
That’s been Hudson’s tone since he took the athletic director job in November, and the hiring of Liner highlights how the attitude of Greenwood’s athletic department has changed with its personnel.
When Hudson was hired as Greenwood’s athletic director in November, he spoke about restoring a winning culture to the school. Before realignment moved Greenwood from Class 5A to Class 4A, Hudson’s refrain was ‘no excuses, no matter what happens.’
Even prior to Hudson’s arrival, it’s easy to tell that District 50 is taking a little more action with regard to athletics. New Superintendent Steve Glenn, a former college football player, started in July. By the time previous coach Dan Pippin announced his retirement, the District decided to split Pippin’s two jobs – football coach and athletic director – into separate positions.
Pippin, who had a 43-28 record in six years as the Eagles’ coach, faltered in his last two seasons with no playoff wins and two 5-loss seasons. The Eagles made the A couple of poor region showings only underlined Greenwood’s standing as the smallest Class 5A school when the Eagles were blown out by Dorman in the first round of the playoffs.
Next fall presents a perfect storm for the Eagles’ football team. The drop to 4A makes Greenwood a bigger fish in a smaller pond, the hire of Liner brings new energy to the program and an exceptional rising senior class will lead the team.
The opportunity is there. Can Shell Dula’s Greenwood Eagles be brought back? That question will take a few years for Liner to answer.
First, Liner has to prove himself. While he joins Greenwood coming off a spectacular year at Laurens, his record in six years in the neighboring county was 34-35. Given Laurens’ lack of historical success and its small stature in Class 5A, however, Liner’s 2016 and 2019 region titles can be considered big accomplishments.
Even though Greenwood is dropping to Class 4A, it doesn’t change everything. Laurens is the only team that remains in the same region as Greenwood, but Easley and Westside also dropped to Class 4A. That means half of Region 1-5A dropped to Class 4A for next season.
It may be harder to remember after the last two seasons, but a high standard for Greenwood isn’t that far in the past. Pippin led the team to a 10-3 record in the 2017 season. The only season the team made the third round of the playoffs in Pippin’s tenure was in 2014, his first season at the helm, but Pippin did have three nine-win seasons.
Perhaps most importantly, Liner must make good on his commitment to improve roster numbers and improve the atmosphere around the program. In our phone interview Friday night, Liner demonstrated in no uncertain terms how passionate he is about his and Hudson’s new aim.
“I think that’s the biggest thing is to give them a sense of calm and a sense of confidence,” Liner said. “There are some other Greenwood folks that are on a full scale march back to town. I want Greenwood to be the absolute shining star of our state and to make people come in droves to figure out what in the hell we got going on.”