Months of waiting at Ridgewood and weeks of uncertainty with Jay Fulmer ended Thursday when the ex-Gulf coach agreed to become the Rams’ next head football coach.
“It just kinda fell in place,” Rams athletic director Tom Wellington said.
And it happened after numerous hurdles on both sides.
Fulmer hasn’t coached since Pasco County Schools suspended him in August 2010 for his alleged role in recruiting two players from Anclote. Fulmer has denied any wrongdoing.
Pasco superintendent Heather Fiorentino lifted his three-year suspension in February, and Wellington said that move was enough to alleviate Ridgewood’s concerns.
“They felt at the district level that they were comfortable with him coaching our kids again,” Wellington said. “If they’re comfortable with it, we are, too.”
After Fulmer was cleared to coach in the district, he applied for the job at Hudson, where his son, Will, was a junior quarterback last fall. But the Cobras passed on Fulmer and hired former Gaither coach Mark Kantor last month.
Fulmer said he then turned his full attention to Ridgewood.
“I was just hoping whatever job was available to me, that was the one I was going to take,” Fulmer said.
And logistical issues kept the Rams’ job open long after Kent Reed resigned in January after two seasons and a 5-15 record.
Until Ridgewood knew its teacher allocations for next school year, the school couldn’t name a coach, despite at least 18 applicants and three job postings. Wellington helped lead off-season workouts.
As Ridgewood recently learned its teaching slots, Fulmer formally applied. He interviewed and was offered the job Thursday.
“Everybody that I talked to, one thing they said is the guy knows the game…” Wellington said. “He’s got a lot of energy. With our school, we’re going to need someone that’s going to walk around school and get kids excited.”
Fulmer compiled a 31-22 record in four seasons at Gulf. He took the Bucs to their first playoff appearance and the 2008 Class 3A region semifinals during a school-best 10-2 season.
As Fulmer watched workouts Thursday, he said he saw familiar traits in Ridgewood — good speed, good size and hard workers.
“I think those things are still there,” Fulmer said. “Those pieces are still in place.”
Some hurdles still remain. Fulmer must quickly assemble a staff before spring practice begins Tuesday. Because he’ll have to commute from his job in the district as an elementary PE teacher, he’ll likely have to start practice late.
“It’ll be okay,” Fulmer said. “We’ll work it out.”
Matt Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.