It’s never a good idea to put much credence into a rumor, especially around April Fool’s Day.
But there have been persistent rumors regarding the future of Aiken High School athletic director and head football coach Carey Johnson for a significant amount of time. In recent days, those rumors have increased, and there’s speculation that Johnson might not be the Hornets’ head coach by the end of the week, if not sooner.
As of Monday, there was no official word on the situation, making it unclear if there will be a change. Aiken High principal Garen Cofer confirmed that he and Johnson have been talking about the coach/athletic director’s future.
Cofer told Aiken Standard senior writer Rob Novit those conversations have concerned “how long (Johnson) wants to continue and what he is interested in doing.”
Without official confirmation, it’s unclear whether Johnson is looking to step aside or is being pressured out. It’s also uncertain if Johnson will be out just as head football coach or will be replaced as athletic director as well.
When contacted about the possibility of no longer serving as Aiken’s head football coach after 18 seasons in the position, Johnson officially had no comment at the time. Johnson said when an official statement is made, he will speak about the situation. There is speculation that official word on Johnson’s status will be released before the end of the week.
In his career as Hornets’ head coach, Johnson has amassed a 135-88 overall record, a better than .600 winning percentage. Johnson’s teams have made the playoffs 13 times and he was the defensive coordinator on Aiken’s 1992 team that won a state championship. He also guided the Hornets to back-to-back appearances in the state championship game in 1999 and 2000, making the state semifinals three other times.
Although he’s been a part of the program for more than two decades, the issue of Johnson’s job security has been a topic of more discussion in recent years. That’s because of the Hornets lack of success during the past few seasons.
Johnson’s Hornets are coming off a 2-9 campaign, the worst season in his time as head coach. Aiken hasn’t finished a season with a winning record since 2008, going 15-30 (.333) in the four years since. It has failed to qualify for the playoffs the past three seasons and hasn’t won a postseason game since 2005.
“(This season) wasn’t up to our expectations. ... We just need to make adjustments in the offseason and work hard to get better,” Johnson said at the end of the 2012 season, not letting on that he might not return.
In spite of recent struggles, sources say Johnson – as well as any other Aiken High coach – wouldn’t be removed from the post simply because of wins and losses. In Johnson’s capacity as athletic director, most varsity-level sports have flourished in recent years; with the volleyball team, boys’ tennis as well as boys’ and girls’ basketball squads all advancing deep into the playoffs. The one program that has consistently struggled has been his own football team.
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than a dozen years after graduating from Syracuse University.