TALLADEGA -- Talladega head football coach Ted Darby was relieved of his coaching duties Wednesday morning during a meeting with Talladega City Schools Superintendent Tony Ball.
Darby, who has tenure, still has a teaching position at Talladega High.
Meanwhile, a former Donoho head coach, Shannon Felder, who has been rumoured as being interested in the Talladega job, confirmed he has applied for the position.
Ball said dismissing Darby was the hardest decision he has made as a superintendent. Monday will be the one-year mark for Ball as the superintendent at Talladega.
“This is my defining moment as a superintendent,” Ball said. “I have hired a principal. I have hired I don’t know how many people since I have been here. It is the most important decision that I have made since I have been in Talladega.
“Some people will say, ‘I thought academics are more important,’ and they are, but in a small town, local high school football is a major issue. That’s how much thought that I put into this.”
Darby had pursued and apparently thought he had the head coaching position at White Plains.
The news of Darby’s intentions came out Monday after he talked to his players. In a phone interview the same day, Darby said he did speak to his players, but he didn’t give any details about what was said.
On Tuesday, Darby, who rumors have connected to several openings throughout the area this offseason, attended the Calhoun County Board of Education meeting expecting to be hired at White Plains, but he didn’t receive enough votes.
Meanwhile, with Darby’s move to White Plains seemingly imminent, Ball posted the job vacancy and began to search for Talladega’s next head football coach.
Ball said moving on from Darby was strictly a business decision.
“I felt like I had to make that move for Talladega City Schools,” the superintendent said. “It is not personal. I know it is personal to him because he is without a (coaching) job. I am not mad at him. I wish him the best from the bottom of my heart.
“I hope they (the Calhoun County BOE) reconvene and hire him. It would be better for everybody.”
Ball said he has a candidate in mind for the position who he believes will do a great job at Talladega, but he does not want to release the name at this time.
“The guy that I am going to recommend is highly qualified and we are lucky to have him,” Ball said.
Felder would seem to meet the description of “highly qualified.” He spent the bulk of his head coaching career with the Falcons, where he compiled a 70-71 record with eight postseason appearances and region titles in 2006 and 2014.
Felder has been head coach at Sumter Central since 2017, going 3-17 with that struggling program in two seasons.
“The job is close to home, which I wanted to come back home, but I also wanted a job where I thought I could have a chance to have a pretty good program,” Felder said of the Talladega position. “I knew that Coach Darby had done well there, and the program struggled prior to his arrival, so I know the program was on the upswing.
“I just felt like with Coach Darby’s departure that it would be a good opportunity for me, so I applied for it. I’m hoping and praying that everything works out so I can get it.”
In two seasons, Darby went 11-11 at Talladega and led the Tigers to the playoffs in back-to-back years. Ball said he commends Darby for the way he turned the program around.
“Talladega owes Ted for getting them back on the map,” the superintendent said. “He did a good job here.”
With the move happening so late in the summer, Ball said he is depending on the coaching staff to keep player morale up.
“The first step is our assistant coaches have to be men of character,” Ball said. “I hope the assistant coaches let them know that even though we love Coach Darby, he made a decision that he wanted to be somewhere else.”
Ball also said he is counting on the coach he recommends for the job Tuesday during a Board of Education meeting to help with morale as well.
“I believe he will do that,” the superintendent said. “We may lose a couple of players because of Coach Darby not being here. It is a possibility.”
Ball’s message to the players who are thinking about leaving is simple: let’s continue to build on the success that we had over the past two seasons.
“I would tell them that it is not about one person,” Ball said. “It is about the school. It is about the red and white. It is about the Tigers. It is a tradition that you are trying to build. It is about being a part of something special.”
-- Sports writer Shane Dunaway contributed to this story.