Butler County#039;s athletic future is bright

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 26, 2007

When I first arrived in Greenville, one year ago, the future of Butler County athletics did not appear to be bright.

Looks can be deceiving.

Now, more than 365 days later, the athletic future in this county is as bright, if not brighter, than it has been in more than a decade, if not longer.

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In just one year, Greenville High School football turned consecutive 1-9 seasons into a 10-3 year with an appearance in the Class 5A quarterfinal.

In just one year, McKenzie High School football turned consecutive winless seasons into a 3-7 record and barely missed the playoffs by one game.

In just one year, Georgiana High School football made the playoffs and defeated the No. 1 team in Class 2A in dramatic fashion.

In just one year, Fort Dale Academy football posted the best regular-season record in head coach James &#8220Speed” Sampley's eight-year tenure and missed the AISA Class AAA finals by one game.

What a difference a year makes.

The future of Butler County athletics is not just bright because of football, it is bright because the right people are in charge and those people care about our kids and their future.

People like Mike Looney, Kathy Murphy, Bryant Vincent, Joseph Dean, Randy Williams, Miles Brown, David Brantley, James &#8220Speed” Sampley and Reggie Mantooth are doing what it takes to ensure students in Butler County have the chance and enthusiasm to play competitive sports for competitive teams.

In just one year, plans are underway to build an indoor practice facility/field house, track and resurface the practice football field at Greenville High School, new bathrooms have been built at the athletic facilities at McKenzie High School, renovations have been made and new bathrooms are being built at Georgiana's Harmon Field and land is being sought to build a softball and baseball field at Fort Dale Academy.

And these are just a few of the changes that have or are going to take place.

There is also talk of the Butler County Schools System, in conjunction with the city of Greenville, building a tennis complex that would dwarf the current courts at Beeland Park.

There is also talk of Fort Dale Academy tennis coach Johnny Mack Brown heading to Greenville High School and current Greenville tennis coach William Champion heading to Georgiana to start a tennis program.

If these two things were to happen, Greenville, coming off a second-place finish at sectionals, would be getting an eight-time championship coach while Georgiana would be getting the same coach that led the Tigers to the state for the first time in school history.

Many strides have been and are being made to improve Butler County athletics and these changes are necessary to keep up with the rest of the state.

Any investment made to improve Butler County athletics is an investment in our children's and their children's future.

And if the progress made from this time last year to now is any indication of what the future holds, then put on your sunglasses because the future of Butler County athletics is extremely bright.

Austin Phillips is The Greenville Advocate sports editor and can be reached by phone at 334-382-3111 ext. 122, by fax at 334-382-7104 or by e-mail at austin.phillips@greenvilleadvocate.com