Stoneman Douglas football coach resigns, citing school shooting as main reason

Head Coach Willis May speaks with members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School football team as they started their first practice for a new season just after midnight on Monday, July 30, 2018, in Parkland, Fla. The players, their school, and community still grieves for the 17 lives lost at the school on Feb. 14. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)
Stoneman Douglas coach Willis May resigned on Wednesday, citing the school shooting that left 17 dead over a year ago as the biggest reason for his departure. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

Marjory Stoneman Douglas football coach Willis May resigned on Wednesday, just more than one year after a school shooting left 17 people dead at the Parkland, Florida, high school.

May said the shooting itself was the main factor in his decision to resign. Athletic director and wrestling coach Chris Hixon and assistant football coach Aaron Feis — who shielded students during the attack — were also killed when a former student opened fire in the school last last year, which he said made it even harder to work there.

“It’s been hard to come to work with everything that’s went on,” May told the South Florida 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.”

While he said he doesn’t want it to look like he’s quitting on his students, May, 51, said he simply needs “that change in my life.” The reminders of the shooting — including Feis’ desk and office, which have remained untouched — are simply too much.

“We’ve got a cemetery on campus that we have to look at every day, when it comes to the 1200 building,” May told the Sun Sentinel. “They know I have to walk in my office and Aaron Feis’ desk is there without him, and on the other side Chris Hixon’s office is there without him. It’s hard. They understand.”

Assistant coach Quentin Short will take over as the interim coach, though May said he thinks Short will “probably get the job.” May led the Eagles to a 33-26 record in his six years at the helm of the program.

May will now move to the other coast of Florida to be closer to his parents, who live in Fort Myers. He has another coaching job lined up, too, though he can’t yet discuss specifics.

"I came out of the interview (at the new school), and my dad asked me what I thought of the school," May told ESPN. "I said it was really nice, and he asked if he would be able to come to practice every day. They could have been the worst school in the world and I was going to go, because I can spend time with my dad.

"One thing, if we've learned anything in the last year, you better love the ones you got because you don't know how long you're going to be here."

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