Posted: Friday July 14, 2006 1:57PM; Updated: Friday July 14, 2006 1:57PM
Kevin Wright takes over at Tulsa Union (Oklahoma) after six successful seasons at Warren Central (Indianapolis).
Jimmy Hart/Broken Arrow Ledger
The desire to perform on a national stage has driven ultra-successful high school football coaches Kevin Wright and Rick Tomberlin to take on new challenges this fall.
The 42-year-old Wright has moved from Warren Central (Indianapolis) to Oklahoma power Tulsa Union. Tomberlin, 48, has left the comfort of small-school Georgia powerhouse Washington County (Sandersville) to go to the winningest program in U.S. history, Valdosta (Ga.) High. Tomberlin beat out nearly 100 candidates to land the prestigious job.
Wright guided the Warriors to Indiana Class 5A state championships in each of the last three seasons and compiled a 71-12 record over six years. His 15-year record at four schools -- which included an 11-2 campaign at Kentucky power Louisville Trinity -- is 127-49. Wright and his father, Bud (who coaches at perennial small-school champion Sheridan), were Indiana's first father-son duo to win football titles in the same year.
Wright didn't leave Warren Central because the cupboard was bare. "We probably had our best team returning," Wright noted. "Seven players were offered [college scholarships] already. Two of them are in the top 50 in the country."
Wright moved on for several reasons. "There is a pull to look at the college ranks," he said. "A friend recommended the Southwest. He told me the Union job is as good as the three top jobs in Texas. I have two small children, and if I'm ever going to move, Tulsa and Union are a great fit for our family. The timing wasn't great, but you can't always pick and choose."
The native Hoosier is very excited because "the Southwest is football-crazed" as opposed to Indiana, which is a hotbed for basketball. "The passion in this part of the country -- there is a difference," Wright said.
He admits, however, that Indiana football "has grown by leaps and bounds the last five years." With that growth, the pressure mounted. "We weren't even expected to have a close game," Wright said.
Other perks of Wright's new gig include a 12,500-seat stadium, a challenging schedule and a chance to travel for marquee games. (Travel for Indiana teams is greatly restricted.) Wright will also serve as Tulsa Union's athletic director.
Wright developed a tremendous running game at Warren Central. One year his spread option produced four backs who rushed for more than 1,000 yards. Last year he had a pair of backs who each eclipsed 2,000 yards. Union tried to throw the ball at least 50 percent of each game under highly successful coach Bill Blankenship (154-26, three Class 6A state titles and four runner-up finishes in 14 years). And just after the hiring of Wright, the natives were a little restless. "Until they saw our highlight film," Wright laughed. "Then they got a little quiet."
The Union Redskins -- riding a 56-game home winning streak -- will open at home against national power Hoover (Ala.). Hoover has won the last four Alabama Class 6A state titles. Oklahoma rival Jenks and a strong Muskogee team follow. Union has lost only eight home games in eight years.
"I don't think anyone can put more pressure on me than I do on myself," Wright insists. "We were rated higher [nationally] than Union the past two or three years."