May 13, 2010
East Chapel Hill High School head football coach Darian Harris is a victim of budget cuts inside Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
Harris, who teaches marketing and sports marketing classes at East Chapel Hill, said Thursday his enrollment numbers fell for the fall, and as a result, the system decided not to bring him back.
He was notified of the layoff on Apr. 27. Harris met with the team the following day to break the news to them.
"I met with them after school, and it was kind of like disbelief, a shock for them," Harris said. "The looks on their faces were kind of like 'this can't be happening.'"
Harris said he didn't answer questions from the players because he didn't want them asking why the decision had to be made.
"I explained to them that this was a business decision that had to happen because of economics," he said.
After the news broke that Harris had been laid off, students from East Chapel Hill created a Facebook group in protest of the decision. Harris said he had not seen the group yet, but added he would probably look at it at some point.
"It is overwhelming," said Harris. "To think that that many folks saw the progress we were making and cared that much, it's overwhelming."
The group had nearly 500 members on Thursday afternoon.
"I would have never thought in a million years that the kids would do something like that," Harris said.
Harris said he feels like the program was moving in the right direction, despite the one win season last year.
"We were in a process where we weren't measuring our success on the scoreboard or by win and losses yet," he said
The change, according to Harris, could be a major problem for the program as a whole.
"It's tough right now because the kids don't really have any direction," said Harris. "I think this is going to be a setback for the kids this year because the vibe I'm getting from the kids is the energy we had been building is gone."
Going into the offseason, Harris felt like East Chapel Hill could have had a special season next year with some young talent returning.
"I think this was going to be a special year for East. I know that may sound crazy since we only won one game last year, but I really feel like this year could have been a good year for the team," he said.
Harris said he doesn't know what is next for him, but said he wants to continue teaching and eventually wants to get back into coaching.
"I'm not sure if I'll be coaching next year. I'll probably end up working in Durham somewhere, but as far as coaching goes, I just don't know yet," he said.
"For the last seven or eight years, this is all I've done. Football has been a part of my everyday life and I love it. If I don't coach, I'm definitely going to miss it," said Harris. "I enjoy working with the kids, and of course that's why I coach."
A replacement for Harris has not been named.