Carroll coach eyes Pulaski job

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Dublin resident Tom Hale interviewed last Tuesday for the vacant Pulaski County position.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

 HILLSVILLE –– The mathematical chances of Carroll County reaching the 2010 Region IV football playoffs increased early this month. The very reason for those improved odds may at the same time make things a tad difficult for the Cavaliers this summer.

Carroll County head football coach Tom Hale has interviewed for the head coaching vacancy at Pulaski County, a program that has been in the midst of controversy since head coach Jack Turner resigned a week before the school was hit with severe sanctions by the Virginia High School League for violating its out-of-season practice rules. Those sanctions include a one-year ban from post-season play, leaving eight teams instead of nine to battle for four Region IV Division 4 playoff spots. The Cougars were also stripped of two preseason scrimmages and five practice dates this season, in addition to a monetary fine.

None of that makes the job less attractive to Hale, who was somewhat displeased when news of his interview was published in Friday’s Roanoke Times, against his wishes.

Hale said he had notified the people who he felt needed to know that he was going to interview, and hadn’t spoken to his team about it because “it was a non-issue,” he said.

“I haven’t been offered and I haven’t accepted,” Hale said Friday following a 7-on-7 event at Tommy Thompson Field. “But I had to come in here this morning and talk to the kids about it. It wasn’t a good situation.”

Despite the VHSL sanctions, the Pulaski County job still has to be among the more coveted on this end of the state, made so by the Cougars’ tradition, their wealth of talent, a rabid fan base and first-rate facilities. The vacancy is made more attractive to Hale, a former Pulaski County assistant, by the fact that he still lives in Dublin, less than two miles from PCHS.

“It is an opportunity professionally that I felt I should inquire about, and that’s all I’ve done to this point,” he said. “Until [the job is filled], I am still the head coach at Carroll County High School, and happy to be here.”

Hale acknowledged that the circumstances under which the job became vacant have made the timing pretty crummy, no matter who fills the void. The ensuing domino effect will leave at least one school scrambling for a head coach less than three weeks from the start of two-a-days.

Hale would have to be considered a strong candidate for the Pulaski County job, having served for 14 years under longtime Cougars coach Joel Hicks, ascending from the 8th-grade program to defensive coordinator for the varsity.

Hale also made it clear that he wasn’t jumping ship.

“I’m very comfortable here,” he said. “I like the administration, the central office people, the parents, I’m very, very happy here. But I feel like I’m not doing anything wrong by looking at opportunities that might better my situation.”

Carroll County has a .538 winning percentage during Hale’s 11-year tenure after winning roughly 40 percent of its games in the previous 30 seasons. The Cavaliers have had two losing records in the past 11 years, including an 0-10 campaign that included many of the same players who won 10 games two years later. Previously, the Cavaliers had posted seven winning seasons from 1969 to 1998.