Not long ago, David Feaster had one of his players tell him “football is all I have.”
The veteran high school football coach responded: ‘If football is all you have; you don’t have enough. You have to go to church and figure this out. You have to have something in your life that’s more important than all this.”
Friday, the advice came full circle after Feaster was fired as Parkway’s head football coach after six highly successful, yet tumultuous seasons in Bossier City.
Initially, Feaster kept his composure as he broke the news to his current crop of Panthers. That was until he talked about something other than football.
“I started talking about family,” Feaster told The Times.
Feaster one child in college, two at Parkway and two on the way (fifth and eighth grades) there.
“They have to go to school where people hate their dad, it’s going to be awkward,” Feaster said.
There is no reason to hate Feaster, although that certainly won’t stop folks these days. The problem: There is a lot to like about Feaster, but also a side of him that can make people uneasy.
Parkway’s new principal, Waylon Bates, dropped the hammer on Feaster — from coaching duties; he still teaches math — because of a difference in “philosophy” for Panthers athletics. This had nothing to do with winning, something at which Feaster excels.
Parkway became a lightning rod – again — when Feaster’s ban of Alabama coaches due to “unethical” recruitment of star quarterback Brandon Harris went national – despite the fact it’s been four years since Nick Saban and Co. were welcome on the south Bossier campus and 15 months since he first told local radio host Tim Fletcher of the bold move.
According to Feaster, Bates told him he “had to go” due to the fallout from the Alabama controversy.
Whether you agree or disagree with Feaster’s treatment of the Crimson Tide, was it fair to get fired for something that happened on the watch of another principal Nichole Bourgeois?
In reality, this was simply the final straw, no matter who’s been in charge. This wasn’t about Saban “firing” Feaster – that line of thinking is short-sighted and, frankly, absurd.
While Feaster 59-17 (on the field) is the most successful coach in school history, he and the program have often been at the center of controversy – mostly of their own doing.
Feaster admits Bourgeois let him run the show when it came to the football program with little or no interference. You could argue that working relationship became toxic for the image of Parkway football.
During his second year at Parkway, Feaster forbade visiting radio broadcasts in an attempt to increase attendance and keep the “best interest” of his players and his school at heart.
Things escalated from there.
A visiting coach was arrested on the field prior to a playoff game over an issue involving timing and the Parkway band. Although Feaster was commended by the LHSAA for how he handled the delicate situation, the actions of Bourgeois led to a home ban during the 2013 playoffs – Harris’ last go-round with the Panthers.
In 2014, Parkway was banished from the playoffs for the first time in 10 years after it was forced to forfeit five games for playing then-ineligible freshman backup quarterback Justin Rogers.
Feaster has also raised plenty of eyebrows with controversial takes on a variety of subjects, including Les Miles’ treatment of Harris, the LHSAA public-private split and verbal daggers launched toward local schools and coaches.
Through it all, Feaster won. A lot.
The Times’ 2013 Coach of the Year captured three district titles (one outright) and a berth in the 2013 Class 5A state championship game despite the lack of a single home playoff game. In 18 years, Feaster is 168-66 as a head coach.
“I don’t understand firing a guy who has won 80-90 percent of his games. How do you fire that guy?” Harris told Fletcher on Friday. “I just don’t understand it. I’m at a loss for words.”
There’s the rub. In high school, it’s not about winning. As much as fans, players, coaches and the media want to make state champions larger than life, it’s about the kids – every kid. The winners, the losers. It’s about preparing them for college, for life – in and/or out of athletics.
Parkway football eventually became known for Feaster’s antics or opinions as much as what the scoreboard displayed or the host of athletes Feaster helped garner offers at the next level.
How many believed that was the case? Bates was one, and that’s all that mattered.
Perhaps the leash extended by Bourgeois created a false sense of security.
By no means does Friday’s firing mean Feaster doesn’t care about his athletes’ success beyond the gridiron.
In every instance, except perhaps the premature playing of Rogers, Feaster’s intentions could be viewed as pure. In his mind, he was sticking up for the kids who look up to him and the ones who would in the future.
That’s why there are so many levels to the change at Parkway. The situation is undoubtedly about more than just a game.
When Feaster mentioned “family” in his meeting with players Friday, he realized he will be forced to make some big decisions.
Feaster’s qualifications to land another job are unquestioned, but it’s not so easy given the landscape. Does it uproot his large family? Will he be forced to take something less attractive, but local? These are the real-life ramifications.
“Will my girls have no place to come back to?” Feaster said. “As much as I love these players, and it’s hard not to share in the glory for what they do in these next couple of years and not to share in the experiences of them going to college, that’s secondary to how tough this is for my family.”
Feaster’s two youngest children have been ball boys for Parkway for the past five years, “waiting for their turn” to join the action.
Feaster’s voice cracked, and then he was forced to pause.
“All they wanted to do was play for their dad.”