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Sartin looks back on time spent

By Staff
ON THE WAY OUT Wildcat head coach Bill Sartin talks to quarterback Ken Mitts in this 2001 file photo. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Jeff Byrd/The Meridian Star
Dec. 7, 2001
A head football coach at a school as large as Meridian High School has many roles besides just Xs and Os.
"You have a lot of roles," said MHS head coach Bill Sartin on Thursday morning, one day after resigning the post. "The hardest thing is trying to understand where the kids are coming from. Getting to know their background.
"You have to a lot of juggling, not only as a coach but as a counselor. Then you have to be a father figure to some, because they have no one to fill that role," Sartin said.
Sartin resigned after four seasons as the Wildcats' mentor. He was 26-21 during that span and three playoff teams.
"The hardest thing was telling my players on Wednesday afternoon," he said. "Those guys have worked really hard. It's one of the hardest working groups I've been around."
When resignations come from a coach as young as Sartin, it usually means a better football job somewhere else. But, according to Sartin, this is not the case.
"I have nothing lined up right now," he said. "I'm looking at some things both in and out of coaching. My biggest concern is that my family is growing and there are some financial decisions that I need to make and that means I need to look at some different avenues."
Meridian athletic director Billy Burnham said he is sad to see Sartin leave.
"I think Bill did a good job here at Meridian. But I respect his decision to leave," Burnham.
Burnham, in his first year as the Meridian AD, says while a search for a new coach will begin immediately, he did not want to elaborate on specific criteria.
"To be honest, it's really too soon. But we will address this soon," Burnham said.
Sartin, a former Mississippi State linemen said his role at Meridian was multi-faceted.
Taking an active part in molding the young lives of Meridian's football team was the biggest source of Sartin's pride.
"I was able to find 26 full scholarships for my young men," Sartin said. "That and we made the playoffs three-out-of-four years."
In 2000, Sartin enjoyed his best season as the Wildcats won their last five regular season games to go 9-2. But they lost a chance to host a first round game and had to make a long trip to Gulfport where they were beaten decisively.
This year, Meridian had little experience in key positions and the offensive line struggled with the kind of physical style of play that Sartin likes to see.
The result was a 1-6 start against one of the more difficult schedules in Mississippi. At one point, Meridian played five teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 10. This includes top-ranked Brandon and Starkville who will play for the 5A Championship tonight against Moss Point.
Meridian won two straight to get to 3-6 and have an outside chance at making the playoffs for a fourth straight year. But a road loss at Oak Grove followed by a flat 38-6 loss to arch-rival Hattiesburg capped a disappointing 3-8 season.
Another concern for Sartin will be his staff. They include Brian Anderson, Gary Sartin, Cedric McCune, Billy King, Carlo McClellan and John Mason.
"I really don't know what will happen there," Sartin said. "Maybe Mr. Burnham will know something. I hope they will be able to re-apply with the new coach.
"I really appreciate their hard work," Sartin said.