MORRISTOWN, Tenn. – Bruce Fowler was getting restless. He and his wife Lindy were staying at his sister’s vacation home in Bean Station while they figured out what was next after leaving Furman, and sitting still wasn’t working for the former Vanderbilt assistant football coach.
Fowler told the pastor at Arrowhead Church that he was looking for something to do – he isn’t particularly handy, but maybe someone needed yard work done. The pastor told him about Lakeway Christian Academy.
The new private school currently based out of Morristown, Tenn., but building a facility in White Pine, was putting together its athletic program.
Not knowing what stage the process was in, Fowler figured maybe he could help out in an advisory role. It turned out what the school needed was an athletic director and football coach. Fowler signed up. He’s one of the big-name coaches to sign on with LCA.
Executive director Bob Brown fell into his position as well. He and Bob Jenkins, who owns Front Row Racing and about 140 Yum! franchises, were talking about the potential for a private Christian school in the Morristown area.
Brown was a pastor for 30 years and didn’t expect to get into education, but the more they talked about the idea, the more they liked it. Jenkins serves as chairman of the LCA board.
After three years of planning and laying the foundation, LCA is ready to open in the fall.
LCA was approved to join the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association for this season, but Brown said they will likely have to withdraw and reapply for the 2019-2020 season. They simply won’t be able to field enough varsity teams in the school’s first year.
They plan to play varsity volleyball, girls soccer and golf in the fall as an independent with middle school or JV football. They expect to play varsity girls and boys basketball this year, and hopefully add wrestling soon after.
LCA is building on existing basketball programs from Cornerstone Academy. The schools merged will coexist in Cornerstone’s Morristown facility for this year, with Cornerstone serving as elementary school and LCA being the middle and high school. LCA will move to its $50-million facility for the 2019 school year.
Brown and Fowler both praised the new facility being built, calling it the best in the area. But they aren’t relying on that alone.
“They say ‘if you build it, they will come,’ ” Brown said. “’They may come, but they’re only going to stay if you have good people to coach them.”
Big name coaches
Fowler wasn’t the only big name to sign on at LCA. Curtis Staples, former University of Virginia 3-point leader, will coach the boys basketball team, Randy Coffman from Riverdale will helm the girls team and Troy Flemming, former Volunteer, has joined Fowler’s staff now that Concord Christian won’t be fielding a team.
“We wanted to hire coaches that knew their Xs and Os and how to compete but also how to coach life,” Brown said. “The athletic portion was a means to an end of fulfilling our overall value of having students graduate with a strong Christian foundation and also be able to impact our community.”
Coffman brings an impressive resume.
He spent the last three years at Riverdale, where the Lady Warriors won the last three Class AAA state titles and were ranked in the top five nationally the past two. He was named the Naismith National Coach of the Year in 2017. Riverdale only lost five games under Coffman.
When he took the job, Coffman sited an improvement in quality of life for his family over the selfish ambition to keep winning with Riverdale.
Brown is hoping for what he calls the Flutie effect.
“When (Boston College) won that game against Miami (on a Hail Mary thrown by Doug Flutie) and had been building their program, their enrollment spiked,” Brown said. “I don’t know all the reasons, but I do know that people like to be around folks that do their job well, whether that be scholastically or in sports.”
Having athletic success draws attention to a school, which can then increase interest in attending said school.