Olive Branch High School football players and fans will again have to get used to another new head coach working the sideline this fall, as Pete Hurt Friday was relieved of his coaching duties.
School officials, through a statement sent by email from the DeSoto County School District central office, stated that Hurt has been dismissed as Conquistadors’ head coach after serving just one season.
The statement went on to say that Hurt would continue to teach at the school and that the opening has been advertised with the Mississippi High School Activities Association, or MHSAA. A check of the job listings on the MHSAA website Friday did list the opening with district Director of Athletics Anthony Jenkins as the contact person for any applications.
Hurt returned to DeSoto County after working with personnel and football operations at Georgia Tech. He had earlier coached at Center Hill as part of a career that included high school stops in Clinton and Northwest Rankin. At the collegiate level, Hurt led a successful Samford University program for eight years and was also an assistant coach at several Division I schools, including the Air Force Academy, North Texas, Rice, along with Southeast Missouri State and Lamar.
But after suffering through a winless season just five years removed from a state championship year for Olive Branch in 2011, Hurt has joined what is becoming a growing list of football coaches who have either left or have been released after just one season on the job.
It began when Scott Samsel was dropped after the 2013 season as part of a dispute with principal Allyson Killough, a dispute that became public and eventually became part of a lawsuit Samsel filed against her and the school district in an effort to regain his football coaching job.
The lawsuit filed by Samsel against Killough, former Supt. Milton Kuykendall and the school district was settled April 25 in an order of dismissal with prejudice by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mills. Mills, as stated in the order, said he found the parties had settled their differences, with each side to cover their own legal fees and costs.
Samsel’s dismissal has set off a revolving door around the Olive Branch football office, however. Former Samsel assistant coach Jeremy Toungett was named to take over the program, but he was dismissed after one season when the Quistors went 5-6 for the year, 2-5 in district play and failed to make the playoffs.
Steve Buckley, a former high school head coach and Southern Miss assistant, was brought in to take on the Olive Branch program for the 2015 year, but he resigned after one season to return to South Mississippi and take over the Jones County Junior College football team. In Buckley’s only year at Olive Branch, the Quistors were 6-6 overall, 4-3 in the district and reached the first round of the 6A playoffs, where Olive Branch fell to eventual state champion Starkville by a 46-24 score.
Buckley’s abrupt departure led to Hurt’s hiring, assuming a grueling schedule that included Brentwood Academy, Tenn., one of the top national football programs, Memphis University School and White Station (Memphis), along with traditional district rivalries in South Panola, Southaven and DeSoto Central, among others.
Any of these matchups will all become non-district games for the next Olive Branch football coach, however, as the school is making the move down to MHSAA 5A status, beginning with the 2017-18 year.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.