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Hernando coach right at home

The Leopards hire Rodney Byrd, an alum and fixture at the school for years.

Published January 31, 2007


BROOKSVILLE - Over the past two months, Brent Gaustad has looked at close to 60 applications. He has spoken on the phone with men who have won state titles in Idaho, Alabama and Florida. He has interviewed people who have coached all over the state and country.

But as the search for the next head football coach at Hernando High ticked on, it became increasingly clear to the athletic director that the right man for the job was already on campus.

"It's going to make the transition really easy," Gaustad said.

Hernando officially introduced school fixture Rodney Byrd as its head coach Tuesday afternoon. A man who has worn nearly every hat there is to wear at the school - athletic director, assistant football coach, head girls basketball coach, physical education teacher - will finally don the one he has long coveted.

Byrd was selected over two others - Port St. Joe coach John Palmer and Suwannee coach Bobby Bennett - and informed of the decision Tuesday morning. He replaces Matt Smith, who was fired in December after compiling a 7-23 regular-season record, including a 2-8 mark in 2006, in his three seasons as coach.

Byrd, 46, was born and raised in Brooksville and played three seasons of football for Hernando before moving on to Eastern Kentucky, where he played safety and won a Division I-AA national championship.

He was an assistant coach at Hernando from 1985-2000 and 2002-05. Last year, he led a Leopards junior varsity team that had won just one game in the previous two seasons to a 4-4 record.

Byrd was a finalist for the head coaching job in Pasco this month. He was also a finalist for the Hernando job in 2004, when Smith was hired. Gaustad said Byrd's interview separated him from the other candidates.

"He really shined," he said.

David Murphy can be reached at or 352 848-1407.

[Last modified January 30, 2007, 22:53:35]

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