A Lafayette High football program beset by controversy the past several months, received a piece of news sure to rebuild stability and contentment. Lafayette athletic director Dan Barner announced on Thursday that Rams' offensive coordinator Andy Linn has been promoted to head coach.
Linn has been an assistant coach in the program the past 14 seasons, most of them noteworthy for football excellence. The Rams have made nine playoff appearances during that span and reached three Division 4 state championship games, winning the 2001 title.
But the program has been dealt multiple body blows since October, when 10-year coach Paul Wheeler submitted his resignation effective the end of the 2010 season. Wheeler later sought to rescind the resignation, which he said he felt he was forced into by a Williamsburg-James City County Schools administrator. WJCC Schools refused to allow Wheeler to return as coach.
In November, the Rams, who went 7-3 on the field, forfeited two games and were not allowed to participate in the regional playoffs because they could not produce documentation that a little-used player had taken a physical. That was a disappointment, but the Wheeler situation generated an outcry among hundreds who voiced their support of the ousted coach on a Facebook page and at a school-board meeting.
Hiring Linn, who is highly regarded among Lafayette players, coaches and fans, should sooth many hurt feelings. Linn emerged with the job from a field of 14 applicants. His hiring was approved during a WJCC School Board meeting earlier this week and announced Thursday.
"I'm ecstatic," two-way lineman Brannon Waters said upon hearing of Linn's hiring. "I feel like we're a championship team, and that Coach Linn can bring out the full potential of all the players.
"He's the perfect coach for us. He stresses fundamentals, early in the season and late in the season. That's what makes him a great coach."
Nick Kepa, an All-Bay Rivers District lineman who spoke in support of Wheeler at a school board meeting, said Linn's promotion should help the Rams reach their goal of going deep into the 2011 playoffs.
"I'm glad he got it," Kepa said. "It makes the transition way easier than if they'd brought in a coach who doesn't know us.
"I think he'll run the same system as Coach Wheeler, but we'll probably hit more in practice. We want to go to states: simple as that."
Linn, a physical education and health teacher at Lafayette, said Thursday that he will indeed stick with the Wing-T offense that served the Rams so well last year. The Rams averaged more than 35 points and 300 rushing yards per game.
Nine starters return on offense, including running back Will Capers (1,441 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns), wide receiver Thomas Smith (27 receptions, 555 yards) and quarterback Connor McGinty.
"We have the best running back, the best wide receiver, a quarterback who threw for 800-plus yards and the entire offensive line returning," said Linn, a starting offensive lineman at William and Mary in the late-1980s. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Linn said it has been his goal to become the program's head coach since he came aboard as an assistant.
"I have the most knowledge of the program and the most knowledge of the school," Linn said, when asked why he believed he was recommended to the school board by the committee of nine who interviewed the candidates. "And no one knows these players the way I do.
"I'm not going to change much."
And Barner is not likely to ask him to.
"(Linn) demonstrates all the qualities we are looking for in a head coach," Barner said. "He is a proven winner and role model.
"He has probably been on the sidelines for more victories and championships than any other coach in the history of Lafayette football."
Linn is married to Rebecca. They have two daughters, Logan (16) and Madison (10).Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun