JOURNAL COMMUNITY MILLER continued from PAGE 23
Miller said he was drawn to Spartanburg High School’s football tradition and his own connections to the program’s history – he was an assistant coach on Davis’ last championship team, in 2001. “I loved Spartanburg when I was there,” he said. “When I went over to talk with them, I fell in love with it all over again.”
Miller replaces Freddie Brown, who coached for five seasons. Most observers agree that Brown came into a tough situation at Spartanburg. Davis had left under a cloud of controversy in 2007 after a star player quit the team during preseason training. When the player tried to return, Davis wouldn’t allow it. Politicians and community activists got involved, creating a media frenzy and dividing the community. Though Davis’ last several teams had struggled and his program was no longer keeping pace with Byrnes, many of his supporters were bitter after he resigned. Brown was enthusiastic and, by all accounts, passionate about helping kids. But he was never able to bring the community together again behind Vikings football, in large part because he failed to build a consistent winner. Miller faces significant challenges at Spartanburg High. Enrollment at the school has been declining for decades. Over the past 15 years, residents have left inner-city neighborhoods as the Spartanburg Housing Authority reduced the number of apartments in older complexes and Wofford College and Spartanburg Regional Medical Center have expanded their campuses. One reader posted this response to an online Greenville News article about Miller’s move to Spartanburg High: “As much as it pains me to say it, having graduated from SHS during one of
“There is an opportunity to create a pipeline of kids participating in football.” Mitch Kennedy, a former Vikings standout and the community services director for the City of Spartanburg
24 THE JOURNAL | DECEMBER 21 & 28, 2012
Spartanburg assistant athletic director Mike West shows off the state championship trophy from 2001. His new coach, Chris Miller, formerly of Byrnes High, is bringing his winning talents to Spartanburg next year.
their many glory times, I don’t think that District 7 can match (Dorman or Byrnes) these days on the football field. Student numbers have changed radically in the past decade or more.” However, fans remain optimistic Spartanburg High will muster the numbers to compete, pointing out that Gaffney High School, which won the state championship this year, has roughly the same enrollment as Spartanburg. One such fan is Mitch Kennedy, a former Vikings standout and the community services director for the City of Spartanburg. Kennedy oversees the city’s youth athletic programs and noted that about 400 boys in grades one
through six played football this fall. “There is an opportunity to create a pipeline of kids participating in football,” he said. Getting those youngsters to become future varsity players for the Vikings has to do with creating excitement around the program, Kennedy said. He believes Miller and Spartanburg can form a winning combination. “I think Chris probably saw a unique opportunity. Spartanburg High School is a very special place, and we can build on tradition.” Miller sees things much the same way. “Spartanburg should be sitting on top, just like it used to be,” he said.