From the Sidelines: Little leaves legacy

Published 9:50 pm Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The changes at the top for Marengo Academy continued Tuesday with the announcement that head football coach and athletic director Jesse Little will step down at the conclusion of the academic year.

The move, which comes only 18 days after the revelation that former headmaster John Holley had vacated his position, caps off the tumultuous events that came to characterize March at Marengo Academy.

While a new day is in the process of dawning at MA, board members must tread carefully in their search to find a permanent solution to fill the void that now exists at the top of the institution.

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The quest to replace Holley carried with it inherent difficulty as the beloved headmaster had become synonymous with the school. Now those difficulties have been compounded with Little’s exit.

During his 29 years of service at Marengo Academy, Little has helped bring the school eight state championships in two different sports. Jonathan Lindsey and the Longhorn baseball team began building on one portion of Little’s legacy with a state title win in 2008.

However, the bar may be set even higher for the next Longhorn football coach as the program is not yet 10 years removed from back-to-back state crowns in 2000 and 2001.

Regardless of the what the knocks have been on Little during his tenure as the Longhorns’ front man, at least one thing remains unquestionable. His work ethic is tremendous.

During recent years, the 62-year-old Little has battled consistent heart problems. Despite undergoing five procedures on his heart, Little never missed a practice and took his customary spot along the sideline for every snap of every game.

That feat is indicative of both Little’s passion for the game and his commitment to the players and school to which he has devoted his professional life.

That level of investment is far from common and takes time to fully comprehend.

Now the board of Marengo Academy is charged with the unenviable task of not only finding a replacement that can take the school in a desirable direction, but also one that is capable of living up to the standards and traditions etched by his predecessor.

So the water cooler conversation around MA over the next few weeks will likely center on personal assessments of Little’s strengths and weaknesses as a coach. And, undoubtedly, there will be a great deal of conversation regarding the next head coach. But when all the dust settles, the new faces of Marengo Academy are revealed, the traditional burnt orange and white jerseys that have long decorated Longhorn lore are donned once more and the lights are again shining brightly on an autumn Friday night, something will assuredly be missing from the home sideline. It is likely then that the picture of Little’s accomplishments will begin to fill the frame that was placed on his career Tuesday.