Former Gulf and Ridgewood football coach Jay Fulmer has been hired for the same job at Sunlake High, a program disheveled by instability and a recent violent altercation between two assistant coaches that drew national attention.
Fulmer, 55, replaces B.J. Hall, dismissed in the wake of that May 1 altercation, which occurred during a practice in front of roughly 70 players. One of the assistants, Sunlake offensive coordinator Connor Ferst, told the Tampa Bay Times he was blindsided by another assistant coach (who name has not been released by authorities) during an offense-versus-defense drill that got heated.
Fulmer met with Sunlake’s players Monday morning in the school cafeteria. His message?
“Just trust me, and know that I’m working for you,” said Fulmer, who will be employed on the Sunlake faculty.
“We’re going to build a family. Just give me a chance, trust me. Let me teach you, let me work with you. I’ll prove myself if you just give me a shot. I’m excited about this and I want them to be focused on taking a break the next couple of weeks, get away from it, get your mind right and come back locked in.”
Fulmer, who becomes Sunlake’s fourth coach (including one interim) since the beginning of the 2022 season, inherits a team that finished 1-9 last fall. A Kentucky native who applied for the Sunlake job when it became vacant several months ago, he owns a career mark of 92-127, but has a rich history of resuscitating beleaguered programs.
He amassed a 45-61 record in his first decade as a head coach in his native state, orchestrating turnarounds at two schools. In only his second year at Louisville Seneca High, where he coached from 1994-1998, Fulmer led the program to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 19 seasons.
He moved to Louisville Moore in 1999, and led a program that had gone 5-55 over the previous six seasons to a 7-3 record his first year. The next season, Moore went 7-4, reaching the state playoffs.
He beat out more than 40 applicants for the job at Gulf in 2005, and led a program that never previously had reached the postseason to playoff berths in two of his first four years. The 2008 team (10-2) achieved the school’s lone 10-win season, reaching the Class 3A region semifinals.
He resigned in 2010 amid scrutiny over a couple of student-athlete transfers, but took over at Ridgewood in 2012 and remained Rams coach until 2018, when the school closed and was reopened as a technical school with no athletic program.
Meantime, Ferst has retained nationally prominent injury law firm Morgan & Morgan as a result of injuries he said he sustained in the altercation. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office has indicated an arrest is forthcoming.
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“If ever a flag should be thrown and a coach ejected, this is the case,” Ferst’s attorney, Brandon Smith, said in a statement released by the firm.
“Mr. Ferst is a former collegiate coach who has dedicated his life to teaching young athletes how to play football and, most importantly, how to practice good sportsmanship. This incident should never have taken place in front of 70 young players, who are looking to their coaches for guidance on how to conduct themselves both on and off the field.
“We’re investigating what happened during this event and will do everything we can to hold those responsible for this disgusting display of violence.”
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.