0

Rumors were true: Collins leaves Union Grove

Since 2000 when Union Grove opened, the Wolverines have made six playoff appearances, posted five winning seasons and four seasons of at least eight wins, and had four head coaches.

Now they're searching for No. 5.

Steven Collins stepped down as Union Grove football coach last Friday afternoon. Collins spoke with players and staff at 3:30 p.m. Friday to give them the news, according to Union Grove athletic director Ralph Neeley.

According to Neeley, Collins stepped down to spend more time with his family. Collins could not be reached when called Tuesday.

When asked of his initial reaction to Collins' decision, Neeley said he was "disappointed."

"Coach Collins has done a tremendous job for the kids, school and the community," Neeley said. "His record speaks for itself, with the number of kids that he put into college — with another big signing day on the way next week — and his success on the field."

But Neeley also understands Collins' motivation.

"He wanted to spend more time for his family," Neeley said. "For the last two years he's been here at the school 24/7. He felt like he needed to put more focus on his family. Totally understand that."

Neeley said an interim coach will be named in the next few weeks, but no timeline has been set for finding a permanent head coach. Neeley is conducting interviews with members of the current coaching staff and said it's a "good possibility" the next head coach could come from within.

"We don't have a timeline per say," Neeley said. "We don't want to close any doors. It takes a special person to coach at Union Grove, and we want to make sure we find that special person."

Rumors began swirling on internet message boards last Wednesday that Collins, who is 30-23 in five seasons at Stockbridge and Union Grove, planned to resign. When reached early Wednesday afternoon, Collins dispelled those rumors.

"I don't know where all that came from. None of that is true," Collins told the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald last Wednesday. "Funny how that rumor stuff starts."

Two days later, he stepped down.

Collins steps away from a Wolverines program that he stabilized after Bill Hobbs went 3-7 in his only season at Union Grove after coming from Florida.

Under his direction, Union Grove made the Class AAAAA state playoffs twice, compiled a 17-6 record from 2008-09 and had an impressive amount of players sign scholarships with both Football Bowl Subdivision and lower-level college programs.

Coaches have accomplished similar feats at Union Grove before. Scott Mason built the program from its foundations, brought the Wolverines to the quarterfinals and was gone after four years. Mike McDonald made two consecutive playoff appearances and left to join the staff at Newnan.

Despite the regular turnover with the Wolverines head position, Neeley said frustration has not set in.

"Each scenario is different," Neeley said. "Coach Collins wants to spend more time with family and you can't feel frustrated with that. Obviously we would love to have more stability than three coaches in four years, but it's not to the point of frustration."