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Is Philip Haywood’s win record untouchable?

December 1, 2016

Belfry Coach Philip Haywood has 416 career victories going into this weekend's Class 3A finals. (Herald-Leader photo)

Belfry Coach Philip Haywood has 416 career victories going into this weekend’s Class 3A finals. (Herald-Leader photo)

BY MIKE FIELDS (Dec. 1, 2016)

Football coaches Mark Brown of Elizabethtown and Larry French of Southwestern reached the 300-victory milestone this season, joining an exclusive club that isn’t as exclusive as it once was.

Mark Brown

Mark Brown

In 2005, when Bob Schneider of Newport Central Catholic became the first coach in the state to get to 300 wins, it seemed he had ascended into rarefied air.

Flash ahead to today and Philip Haywood of Belfry sits atop the mountain with 416 (!) victories. Below him are eight coaches with more than 300 wins, including newcomers Brown and French.

Hard to believe that 30 years ago Bardstown’s Garnis Martin became the state’s all-time winningest coach when he got his 250th victory.

There have been several changes at the top since then.

Walter Brugh of Paintsville went by Martin in 1993.

Joe Jaggers of North Hardin surpassed Brugh in 1997.

Schneider took over at No. 1 in 2005, and Dudley Hilton, in his last season at Bell County, tied Schneider in 2010.

Larry French

Larry French

Haywood overtook Hilton and Schneider in 2011, and Belfry’s sustained success since has pushed him past the 400 mark.

Hilton has since returned to high school coaching at Taylor County and has taken sole possession of second place on the all-time list, but he’s 55 wins behind Haywood.

Is it safe to say that no coach will ever challenge Haywood for the coaching record, especially if he keeps churning out state contenders at Belfry?

“Can you imagine if he stays there, say, five more years, and gets 13 or 14 wins a year, he’ll be knocking on the door to 500,” Hilton said.

“All records are usually broken,” Brown said, “but it seems like a far-fetched idea that anybody could ever catch (Haywood). In this day and time, with so many more things that go into coaching, I can’t see anybody who’d stay in it long enough to catch him.”

French also doubts that Haywood will ever relinquish the record.

newlist1“It’s unreal, isn’t it,” French said, referring to Haywood’s 416 wins. “He’s done a tremendous job up there. He got a program going and they believe in the program. It’s just like a machine every year.”

French and Brown have turned out their share of winners, too.

Before taking over at Southwestern two years ago, French coached Boyle County to back-to-back unbeaten state titles. Previous to that he was at Lincoln County, Meade County and Mercer County.

French, 65, said reaching the 300 plateau “just means I’ve been around a long time, that I’ve had a lot of good players who won all those games for me, and that I’ve had a lot of good coaches who worked their tails off for me.”

Brown, 64, echoed French by also crediting his players and assistant coaches for getting him to 300 victories.

Brown just finished his third season at Elizabethtown. He previously coached at John Hardin, Nelson County (which he led to a Class 4A title in 1996) and Marion County.

“I remember when I was a young coach starting off at Marion County, I didn’t know or even think about how many wins anybody had,” Brown said. “I never thought along those kind of lines.”

He first became aware of it in 1985 when Bardstown beat his Marion County team for what was believed to be Tigers’ Coach Garnis Martin’s record-setting 250th victory.

But soon after, a recheck of Martin’s season-by-season totals revealed he was still a few wins away from breaking the record.

As fate would have it, when Bardstown played and beat Marion County again in 1986, it was indeed Martin’s 250th victory.

“I took a lot of teasing about Garnis getting the record twice against us,” Brown said with a laugh.

But Brown eventually settled the score.

“When I retired from John Hardin after the 2012 season, somebody told me I had 272 wins,” he said. “That was one more than Garnis finished with.”

Simple math suggests it will be very difficult for anybody to ever catch Haywood. It’s doubtful that the 68-year-old Hilton will stick around long enough to bridge the gap. Brown, French and Tom Larkey of Perry County Central, the next active coaches on the win list, are nearing the end of their careers.

Going into this weekend’s Class 5A finals, Kevin Wallace of Bowling Green has 289 victories, 127 behind Haywood. That means if Haywood retired after this season, Wallace would have to average 13 wins over the next 10 years to catch him.