BELTON — Bob Shipley’s first day as Belton’s athletic director and head football coach was full of good feelings. Hundreds of people welcomed him to his new job, some of them bringing gifts.
Shipley acknowledged it was an atmosphere that will be tough to top.
“Everybody’s happy right now. After the fourth game of the season we’ll see how happy we are,” said Shipley with a smile.
The grind and inevitable setbacks will come months from now, but the present was pleasant for Shipley as he received his new position on Monday by a unanimous vote of the Belton ISD Board of Trustees in a special meeting at the Belton High School Athletic Multisport Facility.
Approximately 300 people attended the meeting, many of them current athletes at Belton.
Shipley took the job at Belton even though he appeared to have a good gig with the University of Texas.
Shipley was hired by former UT coach Mack Brown last April to be an analyst in the player personnel department and was retained when current coach Charlie Strong took over in January.
Shipley also has two sons with direct ties to the Longhorns. Jordan played receiver at UT from 2004 to 2009. Jaxon will be a senior receiver with the Longhorns this fall.
Shipley said a call from Belton ISD superintendent Dr. Susan Kincannon in February started him on the road to Belton.
“Coach Strong gave me a raise and a promotion,” Shipley said. “But when Dr. Kincannon called and I came here, it felt like home.
“I guess a year away from high school football let me recharge my batteries and get some new ideas and find a new way of doing things.”
The bulk of Shipley’s football career is as a high school coach, most of it successful. Shipley has a 126-46 record in 14 years with stints at Brownwood, Coppell, Burnet and Rotan.
Shipley’s most recent high school job was at Brownwood, where he was 38-14 from 2009 to 2012 with four playoff appearances. He led Burnet to Class 3A Division I state runner-up finishes in 2002 and 2003. He was also an assistant under Bob McQueen at Temple in the 1980s.
Shipley said Belton feels like a blend of his previous coaching stops.
“With the facilities it reminds me of Coppell,” Shipley said. “With the atmosphere it feels like Brownwood and Burnet. With the situation, it feels like Brownwood, too, because they were coming off a 3-7 season (in 2008).”
Shipley beat out a field of approximately 75 applicants and six finalists for the job according to Dr. Kincannon. Shipley replaces Rodney Southern, who resigned on Jan. 31 to take a similar position at Huntsville after compiling a 37-37 record in six seasons.
The 30-day span is somewhat quick for the hiring of a head football coach, but for Kincannon and the board it turned out to be ideal.
“This was right in line with the timeline,” Kincannon said. “I’m just delighted. Bob is a great man and a great coach. We’re looking forward to great things.”
Shipley inherits a stout offense. The Tigers averaged 30.9 points per game and will return their starting quarterback in Shane Stafford as well as the top two running backs in Kavan Johnson and Brandon Rhoads.
Despite the offensive success the Tigers were 2-8 last year mainly because they allowed 45.9 points per game.
“Obviously you have to put your best players on defense,” Shipley said. “A lot of people ask what kind of offense you’ll run and that depends on what defense you have. You don’t want to run a spread and throw three incompletions that runs 20 seconds off the clock and puts the defense back out there.”
Shipley hopes to have his football staff assembled by the start of spring football, but if he is not comfortable with the situation, he may opt for another week of practice in August instead.
Before he looks for staff members, he has to find a place for the box full of mementos he received from Belton’s sports teams on Monday, starting with a helmet from running back Olajuwan Taylor. Members of eight Tiger athletic teams wished Shipley well and gave him gifts that included a volleyball, a golf towel and a swimming cap. Shipley called it a great family atmosphere within the athletic program.
Stafford, who is also a standout baseball player, enjoyed the atmosphere as well, not to mention the hope for the future.
“I’m excited to get a new coach and a fresh start with everything,”
Stafford said. “I don’t know what he’ll do with our offense, but he’s done well in the past with identifying strengths and weaknesses.
“He will do the best with what he’s got.”