Morrow football assistant Foster promoted to head coach

Morrow football finds itself in a coaching transition just over a month before the 2012 season starts.

Assistant coach Leroy Foster was named head coach after the school’s previous hire, Andre Pickering, was not offered a teaching contract.

Athletic director Greg Kirkland confirmed the coaching change. He said Pickering, a health and physical education teacher, was a casualty of economic conditions that have forced Clayton County Public Schools to eliminate teaching positions.

“We had a lot of cuts in the school district and physical education was particularly hit hard,” Kirkland said.

Pickering seemed a natural fit for Morrow with his history of turning around moribund football programs — whether it was merging rival schools Livingston and Sumter County to become Sumter Central (Ala.) and taking the new football program to the state playoffs last season, or taking over as head coach at Livingston in 2009 and leading it to its fourth winning season since 1983.

Pickering had been lured to Morrow by the chance to return to Georgia, where his wife continued to live, and to turn around the Mustangs program.

Instead, Kirkland had to meet with Mustangs players last month and inform them Pickering would not be their head coach.

At that meeting, Kirkland said he immediately named Foster head coach and told players Pickering had not abandoned them.

“The main thing I wanted them to understand was that it wasn’t Coach Pickering’s decision not to coach them,” Kirkland said. “It was a business decision. They understood that, we were able to move forward and didn’t really skip a beat.”

Indeed, Foster was already on staff, brought in by Morrow as part of the school’s overhaul of a football program coming off its 13th consecutive losing season. He is the school’s eighth coach in the past 10 seasons.

But Foster comes with impressive credentials. A Florida native, he guided Pahokee High School to three state championships in five seasons as head coach from 2002 until 2006. The Vero Beach-native was a defensive tackle at the University of Central Florida from 1990-93.

Foster could not be reached for comment.

Kirkland said players responded well to the change and that Morrow’s vision for the program remains intact despite the ubrupt transition.

“I think things are kind of on plan with what we were going to do before,” Kirkland said. “We’ve brought the team together and they’ve been coming and doing voluntary workouts and had real good turn out with them. ... They all liked Coach Foster and knew they were in good hands”