three-year tenure at Valdosta with a 26-14 record (a .650 winning percentage), a Region 1-AAAAA championship, and a state runner-up finish in 2003.
teams went 11-4 in 2003, 8-5 in 2004 and 7-5 in 2005.
came to Valdosta amid much promise.
was a year removed from winning a state championship at Apopka (Fla.) High, and came with much praise from the search committee that unanimously recommended him, and the Board of Education that unanimously approved his
hiring as the 13th head coach in Valdosta history.
Speaking of some of the same characteristics that the Wildcat program has been built on â€"talking of an emphasis on spiritual fitness, academic fitness, physical fitness and discipline â€" and with a reputation of having a bright offensive mind, he seemed to be the right man to lead the Valdosta Wildcats.
But while he
had success, he
also experienced some difficulties.
Some of the things he
did worked, and some didnâ€™t.
When things donâ€™t work at Valdosta
, the coach gets criticized by a very-opinionated fan base, fairly or unfairly, and Darlington
share of criticism.
And in the end, it was just time for both parties to move on.
Though not as perfect as some would have liked him to be, Darlington
essentially did the things he
was going to do.
talked of emphasizing spirituality, and held optional weekly Bible studies in his
home for players.
talked about emphasizing academics, and required players to have weekly progress reports, and get tutoring if they were having academic trouble.
talked about physical fitness, and the team had 28 Super Cats this year, and an impressive number of players cleaning at least 250 pounds.
talked about discipline, and kids who wanted to play on Darlingtonâ€™s
teams behaved, or they didnâ€™t play on the team for long.
was a disciplinarian who demanded hard work out of his
That style weeded out a lot of players.
Those who routinely got in trouble were kicked off the team, and those who didnâ€™t want to work hard either learned to work hard or they quit the team â€" and Valdostaâ€™s players worked about as hard as any team in the state.
Those players that were willing to do all that it took to be Wildcats in his
system, though, became fine young men.
took great pride in trying to develop first-rate people who would become successes in life, and was very proud of the way most of his
players acted on and off the field.
What a Wildcat did on and off the field reflected on both their parents, and their team.
Even in his
final speeches to the players, after last Fridayâ€™s game and on Monday, he
made sure to tell them how proud he
was of them.
â€œWe have loved and invested in these young men as men first, not as athletes,â€ Darlington said. â€œI am confident that as a result of being a part of our program, they will be better students, better fathers, better husbands, and that they will make a difference in the lives of others in the years to come.â€
Last Friday, following the season-ending loss to Camden, the team stopped to eat at Sonnyâ€™s
They had to wait an hour to eat, but were polite.
After they were done eating, the manager at Sonnyâ€™s came to Darlington, and complimented him on what a fine group of boys his team was.
Earlier this season, a cheerleader from Lincoln emailed Darlington
and told him she
couldnâ€™t believe how nice and polite his
Things like that meant so much to Darlington
(and the other coaches), and made him so proud of the kids.
will now move on to a new coaching job in a new city.
Despite rumors that have him going several different places, he
has not even looked into another coaching job.
Heâ€™s been too busy coaching the Wildcats, and giving this job his
Valdosta principal Brett Stanton said he
the best of luck Monday, and Darlington
has no hard feelings, and will try to keep up with the Wildcatsâ€™ progress in the future, because there will still be players that played for him on the team.
And Valdosta itself will now begin looking for its next coach.
Like its last search three years ago, which brought Darlington
to town, the Valdosta City Schools system will do another search for the next Wildcats coach.
A search committee will be announced soon.