Zephyrhills High athletic director Craig Milburn was relieved of his duties as baseball coach last Friday. After a 16-year tenure, he said he was treated wrongly.
Milburn, who also has coached the high school basketball team since 1989, was dismissed by Zephyrhills principal Jim Davis. Davis said Milburn was removed as baseball coach because baseball and basketball experience overlapping seasons and that the time had come for a full-time baseball coach.
"I was told by (Davis) that I had earned the right to finish out next year," said Milburn, who planned to step down at the end of next season. "I think the whole thing was handled improperly. I feel like I have done a lot for this school, I've been dedicated. I deserved better treatment."
Milburn, 46, has been asked to stay on as athletic director and basketball coach.
"There is a definite overlap between the two duties and I thought we had the opportunity to get a full-time baseball coach," Davis said. "What we want is someone who can spend full-time coaching baseball and not having to worry about going to a basketball game after practice.
"I have a teaching vacancy this year and now we can make the change."
Davis said the search for a new baseball coach has begun and that "two or three candidates" have already been identified. The position, he said, should be filled within the next three weeks.
"They say I was doing too many jobs. But nobody tells me I'm doing too much when I'm staying late hours after school mowing the fields or painting the diamond," Milburn said. "The overlap is two weeks; maybe I missed two or three practices."
Milburn has coached Bulldogs baseball since 1979, posting a 263-192 record, winning four district titles, four conference titles, and eight individual tournament, and making five playoff appearances. Zephyrhills had only one losing season during that time, and he said the team raised more than $10,000 for cystic fibrosis.
Milburn, who said he hasn't missed a day of school in six years, was named the athletic director in 1982.
Last year the baseball team finished with a 14-13 record while the basketball squad enjoyed its best season at 19-9.
Davis said reports that parents had called for Milburn's dismissal were not entirely true.
"That was insignificant. We had parents who wanted him to give up baseball and we had parents who wanted him to give up basketball," Davis said.
"In my 16 years of baseball I have not been thrown out of one game, I have never been called in and told I was doing a bad job," Milburn said. "You know, if parents would spend as much time supporting the program as they do tearing it down, they would be surprised how good these teams could be."
Milburn said his return to Zephyrhills as basketball coach and athletic director is not a certainty.
"I think now I have to sit back and evaluate that some more," he said. "It's something I have to think about. Right now, I just don't know."