Jessie Hester resigns after one season as Suncoast football coach
Thursday, December 22, 2011
by Jeff Greer
Former Glades Central football coach Jessie Hester resigned Thursday as coach at Suncoast after just 10 months at the school.
Hester, 48, said the job at one of Palm Beach County's top academic public schools "wasn't the right fit" for him. The academic pressures the students faced made it difficult for the football team to practice and prepare for games, Hester said, adding that his team would go weeks without a full practice because his players had other school obligations.
The Chargers finished 4-6, missing the playoffs and tying for third in a five-team district.
"There are great, great people at the school, and great kids," Hester said, "but it was just not a good fit for me. It was too difficult to do the things I wanted to do in that situation."
It was no secret that Suncoast, with its nationally ranked academic programs and rigorous academic requirements, would be a more challenging job than Hester's previous job at his alma mater.
In three seasons at Glades Central, one of the premier high school football programs in the nation that is perennially loaded with talent, Hester coached the Raiders to two state championship games and a 36-4 record.
He was fired by Glades Central a week after his team's second consecutive loss in the 2010 state finals. The administration at the school said Hester's teams didn't live up to the school's academic expectations, a charge that Hester disputed.
This breakup was much cleaner, though it shocked Suncoast Athletic Director Kelli Erianne, who had praised Hester several times about the impact he had made on Suncoast's players. Erianne confirmed Thursday that Hester had resigned, but declined further comment.
Hester's quick departure was similar to that of previous Suncoast coach Micah Mays, who was forced out after just one season. Mays' team was 2-8 but still reached the region quarterfinals, where it lost to Plantation-American Heritage.
The school was excited by Hester's success at Glades Central - and the clout that came with his name - but there was no question the Chargers presented different challenges for Hester and his staff, much of which came with him from Glades Central.
Hester, who starred at Florida State before playing 10 seasons in the NFL, inherited a talented senior class, one that included Florida International commit Davison Colimon and Division I prospect Abiade Granger in the secondary.
Suncoast also featured a promising-but-inexperienced receiving corps, several bulky linemen and speedy running back James Huggins. But inconsistency and a lack of depth plagued the Chargers all season, as the they bounced from big wins to surprising losses seemingly every week.
Suncoast averaged just 13.8 points a game on offense, third-worst among area large schools.
On Thursday, Hester, a 2011 Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame inductee, kept returning to the academic challenges that faced Suncoast's football players, saying it was too much for his staff to deal with as it tried to build a football program.
"They'll find someone who's better suited to work in that setting," Hester said. "I just wasn't that guy."
Asked if he'll seek a new job or take some time off from coaching, Hester said he'd apply for a job "if it was the right situation," but he wouldn't just jump at the first opening.
"I like coaching and I like working with kids," he said. "I want to be somewhere where I can make an impact on the kids on and off the football field. Whether that's next fall or sometime in the future, I don't know. But yes, I'd like to have that opportunity, no question about it."