Lenoir City High School has parted ways with head football coach Jeff Cortez last week.
After seven years as head coach, the Panthers removed Cortez from his position Nov. 8, a decision he shared in a statement the following day.
Chris Brittain, LCHS athletic director, said the school was appreciative for everything Cortez accomplished.
“Obviously, it was a decision to go in a different direction and it felt like a change was needed that would be beneficial to our program,” Brittain said. “I don’t want to go into the details as to why, but I will say that our high school, school system are thankful and grateful for all the time and commitment and sacrifices that Jeff has made to lead our football program.
”I think he brought many good things to the program,” he added. “As much as he wanted to teach our kids the game of football, he wanted to teach them as well about life and prepare them for life beyond high school and I think he did a good job of doing that.”
Cortez said he had not received a reason for the dismissal but accepted the decision and chooses to remember the good.
“I think my reaction has been pretty good, pretty positive,” Cortez said. “I’m just a servant of the school system, so if they want to go another direction that obviously is well within their parameters. This is just, as you would talk to your football team, a bit of adversity, a bit of a setback, but I’m confident I’ll be fine.
“Obviously, it’s about wins and losses, so obviously we want to win more games for our community and our school, but there are some things we’re definitely proud of and some long-lasting memories of a lot of good kids and families and support here,” he added. “One of the things I’m most proud of is we developed the Team Behind the Team, which is really more about eternal things than temporal things, and I hope that program continues here for the sake of our kids and their futures.”
This season LCHS went 3-7 and 0-4 in District 5A-3. Cortez’s head coaching record at LCHS was 24-57.
Cortez said he wants to keep coaching.
“That’s what I do, it’s my calling,” he said. “Do I have to be a head football coach? No. I started here as a defensive coordinator. But it’s a little early, this all just happened this week, so we’re going to take a deep breath. Evaluate, kind of compose some ideas and thoughts and pray, and just make sure we’re gonna take the correct step.”
The search for a replacement has already begun. Brittain said applications are being accepted.
Although he wants someone soon, Brittain said he will not rush the decision-making process.
“Ideally, I would like to have somebody in place before the next semester,” he said. “Obviously, we’ve got to find the best applicant and we’ve got to kind of let the process play out. We don’t want to stretch it out too long but at the same time, as with all hires, we want to make sure we find the best candidate to lead this program.”