Sep. 25—TIFTON — Tift County head football coach Noel Dean will not be returning next season. Dean, in his third year leading the Blue Devils, announced his resignation when the season ends in a letter posted by Tift County Schools to social media Monday morning. Though this is his last football season, Dean will remain in Tifton through the end of the 2023-24 school year.
Dean addressed his letter to the "Tift County Football Community."
"I am writing to announce that I will not be seeking to renew my contract as the Head Football Coach at Tift County High School at the conclusion of the academic year," he said. Dean said the decision was difficult, coming "with a heavy heart and a deep sense of gratitude for the experiences I've had during my tenure."
Proclaiming his love to the program and school system, Dean said that "I, along with this coaching staff, will exhaust every effort to ensure that these final five games will not be their last and will continue our collective pursuit of a region championship and playoff berth."
The Blue Devils won their first game of the season last Friday, defeating Gadsden County (Fla.) on homecoming, 17-0. The Region 1-6A schedule opens this Friday, Sept. 29, with a home game against Northside of Warner Robins.
Region 1-6A is composed of six schools. The four with the best region records will advance to the GHSA Class 6A state tournament that begins in November.
Dean's first team, in 2021, went 6-5, winning a region game for the first time in 1,100 days. They advanced to the Class 7A state tournament as the third seed, playing Marietta in the first round. Last year's squad was 1-9, the win also being over Gadsden. They are currently 1-4.
A Michigan native, Dean took over the job in 2021 after the resignation of Ashley Anders. His wife moved here a year later and teaches in the Tift County school system.
Since his arrival, he said, "[M]y family has undergone significant challenges, including my son's illness and the events of the last few weeks." One of Dean's sons was diagnosed with cancer last year. Dean said at the August Chamber of Commerce meeting that his son has since been declared cancer-free and returned to college. Possibly reflecting on both football and family situations, Dean said, "It has become evident to me that it is time for us to embark on a new chapter, one focused on healing and recovery."
"I hope this announcement can bring an end to the drama and distractions that have enveloped our program in recent weeks, allowing our coaches and players to regain their singular focus on the task at hand for the remainder of the season."
Dean said that his goal when becoming head coach was to develop student-athletes, on and off the field. He established Tridents, focused on commitments in four different areas, including strength, character and academics. Dean said the team's grade-point average has steadily improved, as well as their discipline. "We've witnessed a dramatic decline in football players' ISS/OSS incidents," he said.
He also takes pride in what the team has done in the community under his watch, mentioning by name the Red, White & Blue Devils game, as the Legends Game. The latter is for special needs students and its second annual edition was held earlier this month. Football players have also made frequent trips to Tift's elementary schools to read to students.
Dean said that youth football participation has gone up, which he thanks Britt Wilson "for his unwavering dedication in this regard." Wilson's "tireless efforts have not gone unnoticed and are greatly appreciated in this community."
"Tift County Football is on strong footing," he said, "and I am profoundly thankful for the coaches who have invested their hearts and souls in this journey."
In expressing his thanks to everyone, Dean said he is fulfilled. "I will forever treasure the memories, the camaraderies, and the growth we've experienced as a team," he said.