Coach Ollis leaves behind legacy at Polk County High School

Published 7:01 pm Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Coach Ollis with Anthony Carson.

Coach Ollis with Anthony Carson.

It’s official. After a dozen years as Polk County High School head varsity football coach, Bruce Ollis will serve in the same position at T.L. Hanna High School, in Anderson, S.C.

However, when he leaves Polk County physically, he’ll take lots of positive feelings with him.

On Tuesday evening, Jan. 21 the Anderson County School board voted unanimously to hire Ollis, whose duties at T.L. Hanna begin later this week.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Ollis and his wife, Jane, have also built a great legacy here, partly on the field (110-44 including the 2013 post-season), but in the community as well. His overall high school coaching record is 195-125. Their three sons have gone through Polk County Schools, excelling in sports.

Ollis previously served as the South Carolina Upper State AA Football Director from 2000-2002, created the Border Showcase Jamboree and has served in various leadership positions in the North Carolina Football Coaches Association.

He has previous experience coaching in Anderson County, and took Crescent High to the state playoffs each year from 1998-2000.

What does Bruce Ollis feel about his time in Polk County?

“The best 12 years of my coaching life,” he replied quickly. “Polk County has been incredibly good to the Ollis family.”

Many here feel that has been a mutual relationship.

“It’s not just about me,” Ollis said, pointing out that their  three sons graduated from Polk County High School and Jane has been the cheerleading coach there.

“It feels like home to us,” he said. “(Leaving here) is a very difficult choice.”

Ollis said he had no plans to leave and that after the final game of the 2013 season, he was back in the field house preparing for the 2014 season.

“I was the happiest guy in Polk County,” Ollis said. “This (opportunity at T.L. Hanna) presented itself. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

Of the job he’s leaving, Ollis said he thinks it’s the best job in western North Carolina. He said he feels that Polk’s football program is moving in the right direction, pointing out that the middle school’s football team closed last season at 7-1, and that good players are moving up through the ranks toward varsity.

Recognition of Ollis’s on-the-field accomplishments have been many, including his selections after the 2013 season, first as Western Highlands Conference Coach of the Year, then as Western North Carolina Coach of the Year, after the Wolverines won the WHC outright with a 6-0 mark. Several Wolverine players made the All-WHC and All-WNC teams as well.

Ollis observed that the middle school not only has a football team, but a football program.

“Someone’s going to inherit a pretty good situation,” he said.

Who that someone will be is unknown at this point.

“This is something we take very seriously,” PCHS Athletic Director Jeff Wilson said.

Wilson said that through 5 p.m. Feb. 11, the school will accept applications from “anyone interested.” Staff members will then break down into committees, select a finalist and make a decision.

That finalist could be someone from within or outside the system, said Wilson.

“I don’t even know who will apply,” Wilson said. He emphasized that they’ll “look for the best person available.”

After committee members select a finalist, they’ll recommend that person to Polk County School Superintendent Bill  Miller. From there, the school board will hire the new coach.

“There will be no movement until Feb. 11,” Wilson added.

“We’re ready to move forward with the process,” said Miller said, who noted that the field of applicants would be narrowed to a final choice.

He said that as of yesterday (Wednesday) the school has already received applications for the position. Wilson expects that some 10-25 individuals will apply for the position.

“I’m guessing we’ll have a lot of people apply for it,” Wilson said.

What did Bruce and Jane Ollis mean to the community?

It’s been “a fantastic journey,” said Wilson, with “some really great times.”

Football has not been the family’s only contribution, though Bruce coached their three sons in that sport. Jane has served as PCHS cheerleading coach, and has been a constant and positive presence at many sports events, including as a photographer for the school.

“She’s been a tremendous support mechanism to the sports community,” said Miller.

In addition, the Ollis family revived Polk County’s moribund Special Olympics program.

“Jane did work hard to get that going last year,” said Miller.

Though best known for his dozen years as varsity football coach, Ollis also served as the Wolverines’ assistant wrestling coach. Sons Jim and Austin were state wrestling champions, while Jordan, a standout varsity football player at Brevard College, was a state runner-up.

“(The Ollis Family) is just an awesome sports family, good for our community,” Wilson said. “(They’re) good people.”

Wilson added that Ollis impacted the community and Wilson is “happy for him.”

“We’re sad to see him (Bruce) go,” Wilson said, “but we want people to know that we wish him and his family well, and appreciate all he did for the county.”

Miller was PCHS principal when Ollis was being considered for the head football coaching position some 13 years ago.

“We spoke with him about what he could do here,” Miller remembers. “He has been a great addition to our educational community. I hate to see him go personally.”

More than Bruce’s impressive record on the field, Miller places even more importance on what he meant to his players-“the discipline, the example of hard work, the example of dedication, the example of doing things right. I’m happy the wins came with that.

“I wish he was going to be with us a lot longer, but I understand,” Miller said.

Miller expects that the board will hire a new coach by some time in March.