After a monthlong hiring snafu and a possible state investigation into another coaching candidate, King promoted offensive coordinator Trey Thomas to head football coach, principal Michael Rowan said Wednesday.
The move came a month after the Lions selected ex-Lecanto coach McKinley Rolle to replace Al Davis. But Hillsborough County never made Rolle's hire official because he was the subject of an investigation by the Florida Department of Education, Rowan said.
The DOE would not confirm or deny an inquiry into Rolle, but he was investigated twice by the Citrus County School District, including once just before his resignation.
Citrus concluded that Rolle encouraged a student to read some text messages aloud in December after the coach confiscated another student's cell phone for texting during weightlifting class. After one text was about his girlfriend's genitals, the student cursed and stormed out of the classroom, according to a copy of the investigation reviewed by the Tampa Bay Times.
Rolle told the district that the mood throughout the class was playful but that he never asked a student to read the texts aloud or laughed. He resigned "in lieu of possible termination" on Jan. 8, according to Citrus records.
Less than three weeks later, Rolle told the Times he accepted the head coaching position at King. Rowan said Rolle was forthcoming about the incident and that he received positive reviews from Lecanto's staff.
"I wouldn't have a problem hiring McKinley back," Lecanto principal Jeff Davis said. "But he'd be like anybody else I've hired back in the past. We'd need to do some things to get better."
Rolle did not immediately return a phone message Wednesday.
Rowan waited a few weeks, but the state investigation lingered. King notified other coaching candidates.
"We're to a point where we're not going to wait any longer," Rowan said.
So Wednesday morning, Rowan turned to Thomas, who was a finalist weeks ago. "I was next in line," Thomas said.
Thomas said he was happy to accept his first head coaching job after an hourlong meeting with administrators. The 35-year-old math teacher has spent the past five years as the Lions' offensive coordinator and previously served as an assistant at Middleton and Brandon.
Matt Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.