HOUSTON – Hiring a new head football coach during the COVID-19 Pandemic can be challenging.
St. Pius X Athletic Director Jeff Feller is taking that challenge head on with social-distanced interviews through phone and Zoom calls, which has become the new norm.
Feller started the process by opening the job up – following the departure of Billy Noonan, who took a job at Dayton High School – and posted it on Texas High School Coaches Association, Texas Athletic Directors Association, TAPPS website and St. Piux X's own.
Once the application was closed, 78 coaches had applied for the opening.
The process has been whittled down to the final few candidates, who in the next week will be on campus for an in-person interview.
"We are going to try and maintain the social distancing of six feet and do our best," Feller said about the next step of the process. "We didn't feel comfortable hiring someone without meeting them first. At the same time, we want an individual to see the campus and meet us face-to-face.
"As a group we decided this was the best option."
St. Pius X has seen some turnover at the top coaching position over the past few years.
Whoever Feller and company do hire as the next coach will be the third coach in three years on campus. With that in mind, Feller has a list of boxes he wants the next guy to check.
"You want someone that's had that head-coaching experience," Feller said. "We want someone that has the proven ability to establish a strong football culture.
"So, we want someone who is proven to do that. Someone that can not only win but someone who has gone into difficult situations and has been able to turn things around and produce positive results."
Even though wins and losses are what a football program and a coach judged on, Feller said they want the next guy to bring more than just that to the table.
"We clearly want someone who has a reputation for extremely good character," he said. "We need someone that's going to lead our young men in the right direction and do the right things at the right times for the right reasons. I want a positive working relationship and they have to be able to work well with the community."
The final trait that Feller listed as a must for his next football coach – grit.
"We need someone that's going to get in there and grind, work and be flexible," Feller said. "We want to communicate and get that new hire to understand the entire dynamic of our program and school. To set them up for success but at the same time as unforeseen things happen, such as COVID-19, I want them to have the ability to overcome, adapt and achieve."
HOUSTON – If you are driving down North Shepherd Drive during the evening, you may notice a glow.
The light is coming from Kubiak Stadium on the campus of St. Pius X High School. No, the lights aren't being turned on for an athletic event like they normally would be but rather for hope.
"Our stadium and fields are where some of our most spirited and jubilant times happen for our students, families and the community," St. Pius X Athletic Director Jeff Feller said. "When we turn those lights on it's a community coming together. It's about love, fun, commitment, spirit, culture and all those things that make high school great.
"With sports being suspended by putting on the lights it says we understand that but there's hope we're going to get back."
Every night the lights will shine from 8 to 9 p.m. and on the video board a graphic reading "Hope For Houston" with #SPXStrong will also be displayed.
As a beacon of hope, Kubiak Stadium lit up last night from 8-9PM and will continue to shine nightly! We miss our Panthers and families. May the lights be a symbol of our love, hope and faith in our students! Prayers for Houston, our nation & the world🙏#SPXStrong #BeTheLightTX pic.twitter.com/gL22ZavBaC
— St. Pius X Athletics (@SPXPanthers) April 8, 2020
"It's something that we wanted to do," Feller said. "We wanted to share hope with our student body. "Beyond our students, it's for the SPX community and Houston in terms of who's being impacted by this. Beyond just the logistical issue but for people who might have had sick family members or friends.
"It's just us showing support and we want them to know we love them, miss them and we're thinking about them. We're all in this together."
St. Pius X is not the only program or team to do this. Last week a national #BeTheLight Campaign swept the nation with stadiums turning on their lights, including the Houston Astros' Minute Maid Park, Houston Rockets' Toyota Center, Houston Dynamo and Dash's BBVA Compass Stadium and Houston Texans' NRG Stadium.
"We wanted to jump on that and support other schools that were doing that," Feller said.