George Smith, the architect of football national powerhouse
St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
, announced his retirement earlier today
Smith, 62, told reporters during an
impromptu news conference on the school's campus that his decision to
step down after 34 years as the Raiders' head coach has been made "for a
while" but the news reverberated throughout south Florida, where Smith
is an icon in the high school football coaching fraternity.
A winner of 361 games for the Raiders, Smith is one of the winningest active coaches in the country. In 2010, he led Aquinas to an undefeated season and a No. 2 ranking in the Xcellent 25 football rankings
Under his guidance, Aquinas also developed into one of the top talent-producing high schools in the country, routinely sending multiple players to BCS schools. Smith's
teams at Aquinas compiled a 361-66 record, six state championships that
included last season, and two mythical national titles. Smith said he
will remain as the school's athletic director and announced that
defensive coordinator Rocco Casullo will take over as the football
program's head coach
Smith is a member of the Florida High School Athletic Hall of Fame. Over the last four seasons, Aquinas has gone 59-2.
"I just think that now is the time for a
smooth transition," Smith told the Miami Herald. "Any time you're in a
place like this for a lot of years, decisions like this are tough."
is the second time Smith has retired from coaching during his career at
Aquinas. He stepped down the first time in 1992 after Aquinas won its
first state title, but he returned to the sidelines three years later.
He told the Herald that there will be no repeat of that this time.
then it was much different," Smith said of his first retirement. "There
was much thought going in to getting a degree in administration at the
time. (But) I'm not 40 anymore."
The news stunned Aquinas
players, who were informed by Smith of his decision during an assembly
Monday in the school's gymnasium.
"You don't expect him to step
down like that, but at the end of the day, everybody is eventually going
to get to that point where they know what they want to do for the rest
of their life," said Aquinas senior quarterback Jake Rudock, who earlier
this month signed a football letter of intent with Iowa. "Ending in
such a great way as he did, you can't say enough about that."
absence on the Aquinas sideline will be difficult to digest after so
many years at the helm of one of the most successful football programs
in the state, but the school plans to announce its 2011 football
schedule by the end of the month and it is expected to include
nationally ranked teams as in the past few years under Smith's guidance.
His departure shouldn't have any effects on Aquinas' proposed game in 2011 with West Coast and national juggernaut De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
. The game - still under negotiations - would
have potentially pitted two of the legendary coaching figures in prep football. De
La Salle's Bob Ladouceur has a record of 371-24-3.
coach Smith has done is put St. Thomas Aquinas on the national map, so
we want to play the best," Casullo told the Herald. "He built this
legacy. I owe a lot to him. In the same respect, I can't be a George
Smith. I never will be George Smith. There's only one George Smith."South Florida writer Steve Dorsey and senior writer Mitch Stephens contributed to this report.Interview of Coach Smith in 2009: