Who is Georgia’s best-ever high school football coach? Retiring McFerrin has a decent argument

T. McFerrin retired this week after a career that put him on the sidelines for 38 seasons as head coach.  McFerrin won 340 games – fourth-most among Georgia coaches in history – and two state titles, his final one last month for Jefferson.

What is McFerrin’s place in Georgia coaching history? Can a case be made that h is the best coach in state history?

Don’t dismiss him too quickly.  At the least, he’s had more success at more schools than any other coach.

Also, the three coaches whose names are most commonly mentioned as best coach in state history – Wright Bazemore, Nick Hyder and Larry Campbell – all won state titles at schools that had won state championships before they were hired.

McFerrin, who has built winners at eight schools, won state titles at Jefferson and Elbert County. He’s one of six coaches to win state titles at two schools that had never won state titles. (Jeff Herron is another, to name one.)

Other facts about McFerrin –

- McFerrin coached five different schools to the state semifinals. That’s a state record.

- McFerrin won region titles at seven of the eight Georgia schools that he coached. That’s a state record.

- McFerrin delivered seven of the eight to the state quarterfinals or better, also a state record. The only school that he failed to win a region title or make the quarters was Southeast Whitfield, which had its third-best season ever (7-3) in McFerrin’s only season there.

- The combined record of the eight schools that McFerrin has coached before hiring him is 34-46-1. Their record in the first year under McFerrin is 65-23-1.

Here is a look at McFerrin’s eight jobs and how the team’s record changed in his first season:

Lithonia: 1-9 to 8-1-1 (1968)

Forest Park: 7-3 to 9-2-1 (1971)

Peachtree: 2-7-1 to 10-1-1 (1976)

Southeast Whitfield: 1-9 to 7-3 (1984)

Tucker: 5-4-1 to 4-7 (1986)

Elbert County: 7-3 to 9-3 (1990)

South Gwinnett: 0-10 to 8-5 (1998)

Jefferson: 11-1 to 11-1 (2009)

Here are other coaches who might be in the discussion for best coach in state history. How would you rank them? Are there others?

- Wright Bazemore: Bazemore won a state-record 14 state championships and finished with a 265-51-7 record that spanned from 1941 through 1971, with a few years off for World War II.

- Larry Campbell: Campbell’s 470 victories rank third all-time nationally. He’s won 11 state titles at Lincoln County. He’ll be in his 42nd season as head coach this fall.

- Alan Chadwick: Marist’s coach since 1985, Chadwick has won two state titles and has a record of 311-55. His winning percentage (.850) ranks third in state history.

- Wayman Creel: With a 315-105-2 record, Creel was Georgia’s all-time most winning coach upon his death in 1990. He was one of the first coaches to win state titles at two schools. He did it at Northside of Atlanta (1957) and Lakeside (1970, 1972).

- Robert Davis: Davis’ record of 353-73-1 makes him the second most-winning coach in state history. He’s won more games in the highest classification than any other Georgia coach and won three state titles (1976, 1981 and 1988) and two national titles (1976, 1981).

- Shorty Doyal: Doyal was Georgia’s first famous head coach. His record is 193-72-24 over 27 seasons, during which he won nine state titles and made Boys’ High of Atlanta a vaunted program throughout the South.

- Nick Hyder: Hyder won seven state titles at Valdosta from 1974 to 1995 and finished with a 302-48-5 record. His winning percentage (.858) ranks No. 1 in state history. Hyder also was 53-12-3 at West Rome (1968-73).

- T. McFerrin: McFerrin’s 340-102-4 record puts him fourth-all time in victories for Georgia head coaches. He is one of six Georgia coaches to win the first state championships for two schools (Elbert County, Jefferson). He’s the only coach to lead five different schools to the state semifinals.

- Dan Pitts: Pitts made Mary Persons a state power during a nearly 40-year career (1959-1997) and retired in 1997 as the state’s all-time winningest coach at 346-109-4. His record was broken by Larry Campbell, who viewed the Lincolnton native Pitts as a major influence.

73 comments Add your comment

Football fan

January 4th, 2013
11:54 am

Coach McFerrin only won 317 of those games in Georgia, if Im not mistaken. But should be considered one of the All-Time greats!

tift co. fan

January 4th, 2013
12:05 pm

NICK HYDER best coach toughest region ever 1AAAAA from 1978-1989

DAWG POUND

January 4th, 2013
12:26 pm

Nick Hyder helmed the most feared football team in the country during his tenure at Valdosta. They won several mythical USA Today national championships.

No Georgia team or coach has garnered as much respect as he did during his time there.

Dan Pitts made Mary Persons a dynamo during the 80s. He could teach a 175 lb lineman how to kick the crap out of a 260 lb lineman up and down the field. He never had a big team in size but in heart his teams were giants!

deano

January 4th, 2013
12:35 pm

Why would Charles Grisham of Carrollton, GA. not be considered to be one of the greats. He won somewhere between 3-5 state titles.

Ken

January 4th, 2013
1:42 pm

Conrad Nix, Northside, W.R. had 2 state titles and 2 finals in the 2000-2010. Most wins in the decade from all classifications, if I am not mistaken.

John

January 4th, 2013
1:55 pm

Bill Chappell at Dalton has to rank near the top. He was 317-74-9 in 33 seasons without a lot of talent on most of those teams. Charlie Grisham at Carrollton is another. He had five state championships and a 261-69-13 record in 29 seasons and had 16 region championship teams with a Notre Dame box that was unstoppable. Add Jim Hughes at Thomasville and Colquitt County, Gene Brodie at Central of Macon and Tift County, Charles Winslette at a series of programs, Rodney Walker at several schools, Buck Godfrey at Southwest DeKalb, and Luther Welsh at Dougherty, Thomson and a few other places and you have a group as good as any you mentioned above.

DocReem

January 4th, 2013
2:06 pm

Wow…no mention of the great Billy Henderson at Clarke Central High School?

Dosta Cat7

January 4th, 2013
2:52 pm

Nick Hyder was the best coach I have ever seen in my 59 years of watching footbal – at ANY level. He was a CHAMPION on the field as well as off the field. He turned down many jobs(even at some very prestigious SEC schools) to stay at VHS and DOMINATE!! He was the most sincere person I have ever witnessed on this entire earth. He not only talked the talk, but he also walked the walk. Nick Hyder was a man of God and was light years ahead of his time – just like Bazemore. He touched so many lives – there still isnt’t a day that goes by that I do not think about him and his famous sayings (nobody ever overdosed on roast beef and green beans, eat your breakfast, tell your mama that you love her, kissing is a contact sport and football is a collision sport, etc, etc) – and he died in 1996. He is a legend that will live on forever. He was a true servant of God and was called home to his Lord way to early. He is truly missed not only as a coach, but as a human being. He is what good is all about.

BT

January 4th, 2013
3:12 pm

Luther Welch was a good one as well!!

War Eagle

January 4th, 2013
3:31 pm

Alan Chadwick has achieved all of his numbers while playing up either one or two classifications.

The Dogfather

January 4th, 2013
3:51 pm

1.Larry Cambell
2. Nick Hyder
3. Billy Henderson
4.Waymen Creel
5. R. Pitts

DostaDawg

January 4th, 2013
3:57 pm

Being a life long Wildcat fan, it would be impossible for me to pick either coach Baze or Hyder…I am 47 and have been going to games since I was 5. There the reason we cat fan’s are so spoiled now.. Other great coach’s not on this list in my opinion are . Gene Broady(tift co.), Jim Hughes(moultrie),Cecil Flowe(Parkview),Buck Godfry(s.w.Dekalb),and Randy mcpherson(Lowndes),Jeff herron (camden Co.). Sure i left a few off. Curious to see other’s opinion.

Rooty Tooty

January 4th, 2013
3:58 pm

They are all winners and deserving. It would be impossible to pick the best.

Miller Pirate Man.

January 4th, 2013
4:08 pm

I vote for Larry Campbell. His team should never have beaten the 97 pirate team but they got it done. We have had some great teams over the years but that was probably our best. The best team doesn’t always win.

Tony Smith

January 4th, 2013
4:23 pm

You would also have to consider Jimmy Hightower and Alton Shell at Americus.

Cavalier

January 4th, 2013
4:41 pm

I can’t believe that you don’t have Billy Henderson on the list.

3d

January 4th, 2013
4:49 pm

Honorable mention: Billy Henderson Willingham High Macon Clarke Central Athens

BullDawg Rick

January 4th, 2013
4:53 pm

I cannot argue with T McFerrin since he built more downtrotten programs into winners & champions!

But for my $$ (whick is now worth a LOT less due to Obummer) I have to go with Calvin Ramsey and Crawford (kicked my butt up & down the gridiron & ripped the facemask off my helmet more times than I care to remember!) Kennedy of the “Other” Blue Devils, Avondale!

Seriously, ALL the coaches listed (& some not listed) are great coaches.. Hard to argue with any.. But if you want to build a program from the ground up… T. it up!!

Ghruten

January 4th, 2013
4:54 pm

Whoever coached Americus to an undefeated season in the mid-70s where they cumulative season score was something like 560-13.

some sense

January 4th, 2013
4:55 pm

George Maloof, St. Pius X. Best ever, for real.

Ghruten

January 4th, 2013
4:55 pm

They averaged 40 and shut out everybody but one team from Alabama.

GAdawgfan

January 4th, 2013
5:13 pm

Billy Henderson should be in everyone’s top 5.

The AJC should be ashamed he didn’t even crack their top 10.

His achievements are even more impressive when you condier the GAHSA allowed Clake Central to compete in the highest class even though their enrollment was well below the minimum allowed.

athensbball

January 4th, 2013
5:15 pm

FOOTBALL’S SEASON IS OVER….LET IT GO AJC!!!!!!!!. BASKETBALL HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR ALMOST 3 MONTHS!!!

gwinnettco

January 4th, 2013
5:19 pm

Don’t forget Dexter Wood — Marietta and Buford. Perhaps not total # of wins, but my guess his winning percentage rivals anyone.

ptjackets

January 4th, 2013
5:45 pm

As a former HS coach, All of the above are well deserving of the honors they have and all should be, if not in the Georgia HS Hall of fame. Taking nothing away from T. McFerrin, I always thought it harder to stay at one school and win year after year rather than go from School to School. Nick, Larry are two of the greatest I ever coached against. Another Great Coach that you will here for year to come that may wind up with more wins than all of them is The Buford coach. Keep an eye on him.

Mike Stapleton

January 4th, 2013
5:54 pm

Wright Bazemore at Valdosta was absolutely the best Head Coach ever in Georgia. His teams were always pretty impossible to beat and were very well coached and talented!

Ballfan

January 4th, 2013
6:18 pm

I wonder which of the great coaches were able to do the most with the least.

bigdaddyj

January 4th, 2013
6:19 pm

Coach Creel used to thump us on the heads in drafting class with those big state title rings. He was simply a legend at Lakeside HS

VSU Alumnus

January 4th, 2013
6:26 pm

As a Valdosta native I also feel Billy Henderson should be on the list. VHS vs Clarke Central were great games. I would take Baze over Nick by a hair.

Stinger

January 4th, 2013
6:53 pm

Billy Henderson was an assistant under Mike Garvin at Mt de Sales in Macon. The Cavaliers won two state titles in those two years. He also coached baseball there and won the state title also, along with being named National High School Baseball Coach of the year in1972.

Stinger

January 4th, 2013
6:54 pm

And had Ben Zambiasi playing for him at De Sales.

DC

January 4th, 2013
7:12 pm

Bobby Gruhn of Gainesville & Jim Lofton,who coached at East Hall & North Hall.

DC

January 4th, 2013
7:12 pm

Bobby Gruhn of Gainesville & Jim Lofton,who coached at East Hall & North Hall.

GTBob

January 4th, 2013
7:20 pm

Mcferrin was only a hired gun…nothing more!

Ruby

January 4th, 2013
8:33 pm

Ray Lamb
Commerce
Warren County
Won 3 state championships

Private School

January 4th, 2013
8:37 pm

Coach Graham Hixon coached for 34 years won State Championships in 1970 and 1980 at Woodward Academy. Went to the playoffs 17 of the last 18 years he Coached. On top of that one of the finest men that there ever was.

stinger

January 4th, 2013
8:55 pm

You are all idiots, Robert Davis won two national championships at Warner Robins. Big Ron Simmons was a star.

stinger

January 4th, 2013
8:58 pm

Ron went on to ba a wresler in the WWF. Warner Robins Demons were the real deal.

Wildcat10

January 4th, 2013
9:10 pm

14 state chamionships, 3 national titles in 30 years. Won his last game, state championship 62-12 with Stan Rome as a sophomore receiver. At the end of Remember the Titans it says they finished second that year to the mythical national champion. Wright Bazemore’s Wilcats.

Martell

January 4th, 2013
9:39 pm

Luther Welsh had a coaching record of 333-187, including three state championships. He coached at Thomson on two different occasions for a total of 19 years.

Marshall

January 4th, 2013
9:56 pm

Bud Theodocian who won a state title at Morrow was an excellent coach who also won at Woodward Academy. I think he may have won a baseball title also.

Julian Mock out of Murphy in Atlanta was a fine coach as well.

Old School

January 4th, 2013
10:46 pm

I think the world of Coach McP….but I think it is ludicrous of you to assume that someone is a better coach because he wins or plays for titles at lots of schools….sometimes that is a result of chasing talent around. It is MUCH harder to sustain a program for years and years and years like Nick Hyder did. I say this with all due respect to Coach McPheron—-he is certainly among the state’s best….

Billy Ray

January 4th, 2013
11:57 pm

In Valdosta, the culture is all about high school football. From feeder programs right up to the junior varsity, kids were raised on football. Atl Lakeside, Wayman Creel took upper-middle class kids with more of a penchant for soccer, golf and baseball and molded a football dynasty.

Hubert Green

January 5th, 2013
12:03 am

I find it quite humorous that the good ole boys don’t think it’s challenging to win state titles at more than one school. There’s a reason those jobs are open folks; the previous guys didn’t get the job done. You often have to change a losing culture into a championship culture; not easy to do.

oh brother!

January 5th, 2013
12:35 am

Creel..an easy pick….hands down!

tyger

January 5th, 2013
12:38 am

Records prior to de-segregation dont count…
they are inherently misleading…invalid

57Cat

January 5th, 2013
12:47 am

Trying to pick the best or the greatest among a list of really outstanding coaches is an exercise in futility. All of them should be honored equally for their success on the field and for their tremendous influence in the communities in which they lived and in the lives of the kids they coached. As a Valdosta Wildcat fan, I will favor Bazemore and Hyder because I knew their work first hand. But I can’t say they were greater than coaches Lamb, Campbell, Broady,,Henderson, G. Maloof, or any of the others mentioned. Won-Loss records and championships are certainly valuable tangible measuring sticks. But the intangible contributions of quality of life and character of the athletes and to the community cannot be so easily measured but go a long way in addressing the greatness of a coach, regardless of the sport.

oh brother!

January 5th, 2013
12:53 am

Creel coached the Tarkentons

Ain't no Lion like a Golden Lion

January 5th, 2013
3:29 am

My question is why do you feel the need to name the best? Because the list of the best just goes on and on. I guess other than get a bunch of middle age guys to jog their memories I think it is way too difficult to choose just one. That is why Ga has a high school hall of fame with many folks in it. It is kind of like who has the best looking wife ! No wait football coaches stirs up much deeper feelings. Damn glad my wife doesn’t read the ajc sports.
All these fine coaches have done more for this state than most governors. I am proud to have played for G.B.Maloof . His record would of been much better if not for the anti-football priest that arrived in 1976 to take over and did his best to get rid of coach (he did)and football. (almost) Check the ga football historian site for detailed info. His coaching legacy was on display in the Dome this year when 3 of his former players one being his son Keith,led their teams into the finals now that is truly inspiring. His older son Kevin also had many good teams in his career. I believe coach did play for Shorty Doyle mentioned above so connect some more dots there. Good well rounded coaches inspire others do good things in life and sometimes even follow in their footsteps.
FYI…. while playing at Tech Coach scored 4 tds in a game against UGA so all round football guy. He and some guy named H Walker have the shared record in that series.
Back to my original thought what we need is about a thousand more guys to join this great list of coaches and continue to be role models for these high school kids. In 10 years time have 25-30 more names being brought forward.
Many a good argument can be made for the Valdosta group. Then you have Coach Creel, I am sure he would of had much success at Westminster had he not passed way to early.
One school coaches well I am not saying it is easier to succeed once you build a top program but I kind of favor the guys who have had 2 or more top programs in different environments. To me I think to start over somewhere else is just a tad more difficult then be the “MAN” and have folks coming after you like you have a target on your back.
I am truly lucky to have seen some of the names on this list like Godfrey,Nix,Hixon,Gruhn,Lamb,Kennedy and even Chadwick (that was very hard to say being from St. Pius) coaching high school ball and at the same time giving life lessons. Great article and as always lots of good comments.
@GtBob usually we agree on football matters but I believe you to be off base on your “hired gun” comment. Something about being 65 plus and hired gun just don’t fit here. Would you call Coach Curry a hired gun at GSU?

Gwinnett

January 5th, 2013
7:57 am

Billy Henderson is the best coach in the history of the State of Georgia. He is what young coaches want to be. One of the best EVER!