CCC’s Horton to Retire from Coaching Football
“I am, and will forever be a Tiger.”
Those were the words spoken by Freeman Horton Wednesday morning as the Coahoma Community College Head Football Coach made the official announcement that the 2013 football season would be his last pacing the sidelines – effectively ending a coaching career that has spanned more than three decades.
Horton said the decision had been in the making for a few years. Two years ago, after his mother passed away, he said things just weren’t the same; and that coupled with new recruiting rules and restrictions in the state of Mississippi for junior colleges helped him make his decision.
“I started to make this decision when my mother passed away, she was always at all of my ball games all of my life and when she was gone things just weren’t the same,” said Horton. “And, the new recruiting rules and restrictions they placed on us, it was like starting all over again from scratch.
“A lot of the younger presidents aren’t interested in the equality of our league, they are only concerned with their individual schools, I feel that the older guard was more in tune to having a level playing field, and if they would change the rules back I feel like things would be more consistent.”
The rule changes Horton is referring to happened in 2010, after the Tigers most successful season since joining the MACJC in 1975. The decision was made to open up recruiting statewide, and another also effectively cut out the Memphis area as part of the Tigers recruiting district.
Those changes came after the Tigers only trip to the playoffs since joining the MACJC in 2009, the Tigers finished the regular season 6-3, and had victories over two Top 5 teams that season — Jones Community College and Gulf Coast Community College. Horton was unanimously voted the Coach of the Year with his coaching staff also honored as the coaching staff of the year.
Those types of “big wins” for Coahoma are one of the things that Horton says he’s the most proud of during his tenure and have led to the increase in respectability for the Tigers program.
“When I first started going into high schools back in 2001, and kids found out you were from Coahoma, they really didn’t want to talk to you,” said Horton. “Now kids are excited to come here and they take pride in being a part of this program. We’ve gained respectability, nobody ever expected us to be able to beat programs like Northwest, Gulf Coast and those teams. Now those teams know that we’re not an easy win, and when they see us on the schedule, they know that they are going to have to prepare for us.”
Horton began his football career as a young linebacker at Lake High School in Lake, MS. His senior season at Lake, his team went undefeated, and his defense was never scored upon. He was recruited and attended Southern Mississippi where he played for four years and after his playing days were behind him, he took his first coaching job at East Central Community College.
He spent four years at East Central, two as an assistant, and two as the defensive coordinator. Horton then headed back to Southern Mississippi and spent eight years coaching; under three different head coaches, and took his teams to two major bowl games — the 1988 Independence Bowl and the 1990 All-American Bowl. After Southern Mississippi, Horton coached linebackers for four years at Ole Miss before spending six years as Head Coach at Rosa Fort High School and then coming to Coahoma in 2001.
“This has been one of my favorite positions I’ve held during my 35 years of coaching,” Horton said. “I have loved getting up and coming to work here every day. When I took this position, I just hoped to leave the program in better shape than when I came here and I think I’ve done that.”
What has been the best part of the position Horton’s held for 12 years?
“The best part was seeing the kids move on and graduate and go on to do good things, that is what gave me the most pleasure,” Horton said. “We’ve had one of the highest graduation rates in the state of Mississippi and watching our student athletes do well on and off the field is something I’ve been very proud of.”
The Tigers earned 35 victories during Horton’s career and had two winning seasons.
Horton will stay on as Coahoma’s athletic director throughout the 2013-14 school year according to CCC President Dr. Valmadge Towner who offered up his appreciation to the Tigers coach.
"We appreciate the many things that Coach Horton has done here at Coahoma, and the time that he has invested teaching our student athletes both on and off of the field," said Towner. "We want to wish him the best in his future endeavors, and he leaves with the sincere gratitude and appreciation of everyone at Coahoma Community College."
Applications for the head coaching vacancy are currently being accepted, and Towner said that the school hopes to have filled the vacancy by the first of the year.