The Hoyas hired Matt Dickmann on Monday to try and return the football team to the top of Region 4AAAAAA.
After leading Seminole Ridge of Loxahatchee, Fla. to its third straight district title and a regional final berth, Dickmann was ready for another challenge.
“It’s a program that needs to be rebuilt,” said Dickmann, 47. “I took the job because it was the best thing for my family. I told the kids, you always have to do what’s best for your family. The kids are my second family but this is the best thing for mine.”
Many Seminole Ridge coaches and players were emotional after Dickmann broke the news in a meeting last Friday.
“We were all shocked by it,” defensive coordinator Justin Hilliker said. “Just a somber day. A lot of kids felt like they’re losing their dad.”
Dickmann replaces former Harrison coach Marty Galbraith who resigned after seven games while being was being investigated on allegations of inappropriate conduct. Bruce Cobleigh, the winningest coach in Harrison history, coached the final three games of the season on an interim basis and the Hoyas finished the season 4-6.
Galbraith, who also spent time at Pope and Lassiter as well as in college and the NFL was the choice after a lengthy national search. Harrison principal Donnie Griggers told the Marietta Daily Journal at the beginning of December that there was no timetable as to when a new coach would be hired, but said at the time there had been considerable interest in the position. Efforts to reach Griggers for comment were unsuccessful.
In 2005, Dickmann became Seminole Ridge’s first football coach. After a winless inaugural season, he led the Hawks to three district titles and two regional final appearances, all in the last three years. In Dickmann’s eight seasons, the Hawks went 52-33.
In 2010, he was named Palm Beach Post All-Area large schools coach of the year and Lou Groza Awards Palm Beach County coach of the year.
An Ohio native who attended the University of Toledo, Dickmann moved to Florida in 1987 to become freshman coach for longtime Jupiter High coach Charlie Persson. He spent 18 years there, eventually serving as Persson’s offensive and defensive coordinator.
Hilliker was an offensive lineman at Jupiter from 1992-96, while Dickmann was offensive coordinator. He later became an assistant at Jupiter and followed Dickmann to Ridge. He will be interim head coach while Ridge searches for a new one.
“It’s a tough day in Seminole Ridge history,” he said. “But we preach to the kids: It’s family, it’s education and then it’s football.”
With higher salaries and better facilities, Georgia has long been an attractive move for Palm Beach County football coaches. Last year, Chris Davis left Palm Beach Gardens for Cedar Shoals, near Athens. Since 2003, former Atlantic and Glades Central coach Rick Casko has been at Atlanta-area Cass High.
After 26 years in Palm Beach County, Dickmann said he had “a lot of anxiety” about leaving. Of greater concern; county teacher salaries have been mostly frozen since 2007, aside from a $500 bonus in 2010 and a $500 raise last year. After recently agreeing to a new contract, most county teachers will receive a $1,500 raise.
Dickmann, who teaches physical education and lives in Jupiter, made a daily 60-mile round trip to Loxahatchee. His wife Kelly did the same; she teaches social science at Seminole Ridge, and is student government advisor and cheerleading coach.
“The economy’s been bad,” said Dickmann, who has two daughters, ages 8 and 11. “We haven’t been able to get a raise in Palm Beach County. With my wife and I driving to Seminole Ridge every day, it’s taken a toll. There’s been no increased pay for coaches, and no raises until now.”
“Financially, it was a struggle. I was going to step down and do things on a lower level, and not take as many trips out here. It’s tough. You have to put in the time for the kids.”
Dickmann said he won’t have much time off. He plans to lead his first weight room session at Harrison on Jan. 7.
“It was very emotional today,” he said. “There were some tears. There were a lot of hugs. They wished me luck and I wished them luck too.”
Marietta Daily Journal sports editor John Bednarowski contributed to this report