The fractured state of Admiral Farragut’s football program might be on the mend after Wednesday’s hiring of Ryan Hearn as coach.
Hearn leaves Ocala West Port after three seasons to take up the challenge of repairing the Blue Jackets, who went through a rocky offseason that included the resignation of former FSU linebacker Buster Davis as coach and possible defection of several players.
Hearn played at USF as a defensive back and was a captain in 2002. After playing one season in the Arena Football League, he joined the Bulls coaching staff as a graduate assistant.
He spent five seasons as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the Citadel (2006-2010).
“It was tough leaving West Port, but I’ve been very interested in this job for a while,” he said. “How can I not be intrigued by it? I’ve worked at the Citadel, I know the lifestyle, I know what it’s like to run a military-style program with discipline.”
Hearn, who was 14-16 at West Port, including 5-5 last year, appeared to have a solid team in Ocala. According to the Ocala Star-Banner, more than a dozen players had transferred in to play for Hearn this fall.
His hiring, made after three days of negotiations, gives Admiral Farragut some stability after going through two coaching upheavals within the past six months.
It started in January when Chris Miller stepped down after eight seasons.
Miller, now the coach at Seminole, led the Blue Jackets through the program’s most successful run, which included three straight playoff berths and an appearance in the Class 2A state championship game in 2011. Last month, Miller acknowledged for the first time that he was pressured into resigning by headmaster Bob Fine due to influence from an outside booster.
Davis was hired Feb. 8. In May, he had fewer than 30 players out for spring practice. Due to injuries, those numbers continued to dwindle, so much that Farragut had just 19 players for its spring game and was overmatched in a 35-6 loss to Berkeley Prep.
Davis resigned May 29, leaving the school scrambling for its third coach since the 2012 season ended.
The deadline for accepting applications was set for Friday. But athletic director Matt Thompson said the timetable was accelerated because the school had not received any new resumes within the past week and the administration did not want to keep players in limbo any longer.
Thompson said he was called into a meeting with administrators to narrow the list of finalists.
Hearn was at the top of the list. He was a finalist for the job in February, but pulled out of the running after Farragut could not meet his salary demands.
Hearn’s previous experience coaching at a military school helped him stand out. His hiring also could have an impact on convincing players, such as running back Cortavious Givens, to stay. Hearn’s wife, Allison, is from Tampa and attended the Academy of Holy Names, which also made the move attractive.
Hearn said he plans to meet with the team on Friday.
Photo courtesy of the Ocala Star-Banner.