South Fort Myers (Fla.) High School offered its open head football coaching position to former Parkland Marjory Stoneman Douglas coach Willis May, South principal Ed Mathews confirmed to The News-Press on Thursday.
“We need to complete the hiring process and have the school board approve the hire,” Mathews said. “ … it will not be official until we send out a press release. At this time, we are following the hiring process and waiting for board approval. He is only offered the position at this time.”
Willis spent six seasons at Stoneman Douglas, but it was the last year following the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at the school that left 17 people dead, including one of his assistant coaches and the school’s athletic director, that wore on him and led to his resignation Wednesday, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. He announced his resignation Wednesday.
Needing a change of scenery, Willis interviewed at South as it sought a replacement for coach Brian Conn, who resigned after two seasons where the team went a combined 11-13 to take a job outside of education.
May could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The move to Southwest Florida would get May closer to his parents who live in the area. He went 33-26 in six seasons with Stoneman Douglas and 5-5 last season, missing out on the state playoffs.
His office sat right next to assistant coach Aaron Feis, who died shielding students from the gunmen, and athletic director Chris Hixon’s office also remained empty after he reportedly drove his golf cart toward the shooter in an attempt to disarm him.
“It’s been hard to come to work with everything that’s went on,” May told the Sun-Sentinel. “I miss Aaron Feis every day, and I miss Chris Hixon every day. It’s been really hard, and I just needed a change. I needed a change for my soul.”
“I will always be grateful for the love and affection the community showed my family,” he added. “I will always wish nothing but the best for the whole community, Parkland, and definitely Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Want only the best for them.”
South, one of the premier programs in Lee County since its inception more than a decade ago, is seeking its fourth coach in five years.
Anthony Dixon, who took over for Grant Redhead, the program’s longest tenured coach, was fired after one season. Interim coach Matt Holderfield went 9-2 in 2016 before Conn was hired.
Spring practice in the state begins April 22.