RICHMOND — Chuck Smith, who built Boyle County into a state football power more than a decade ago before he moved up to the college game, is excited about returning to the high school ranks as the new coach at Madison Central.
"There's nothing like Friday nights when the lights are on, the band's playing, the cheerleaders are cheering, and the community and families are in the stands," he said. "It's a great atmosphere, a great environment. I missed that part of it, and I'm ready for it to happen again."
Smith led Boyle County to five consecutive state titles from 1999-2003, and a runner-up finish in 2004. The Rebels had a 142-33 record in his 13 years. They were 85-5 over his last six seasons, including a 47-game winning streak, the second longest in state history.
Smith joined Rich Brooks' staff at Kentucky in 2005 and was with the Cats through Joker Phillips' tenure. Smith wasn't retained when Mark Stoops took over.
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Smith, 56, turned down other high school offers in the past year, but he said Madison Central had what he was looking for in terms of a supportive administration "from the superintendent all the way down to the principal, a lot of potential athletes in the hallways, and a community that wants a winning program."
Madison Central principal Drew Muntz said there were lots of good applicants for the job, but Smith was an obvious choice.
"His record speaks for itself, but what he brings with his character, integrity and knowledge of how to build a program is what's so exciting for Madison Central."
Muntz said he's confident Smith will work well with the middle school programs, the boosters and "be an ambassador for this school."
Smith met with Madison Central's players for the first time Monday, and he liked being a head coach again.
"I really missed standing in front of a team and being the one in charge," he said. "I spent eight years not being the one in charge, but now it's come back to me and I'm ready to go."
Smith said the first step in reshaping the Indians into a winning program is instilling a positive attitude.
"X's and O's sometimes get overrated. I think it's more of the mentality, the mindset, the culture of the team and the program. It took a long time to get it going at Boyle County, but once it gets going it works pretty good."
Smith also knows the challenges of trying to win a state championship in Class 6A.
"It takes a physical, mentally tough football program to be able to compete in this classification," he said. "It's not an easy road by no means."
Smith said his eight years at UK made him a better coach, by not only learning more offensive and defensive strategies but also dealing with players and their families as a recruiter.
Smith succeeds Bert Browne, who had a 15-30 record in four seasons at Madison Central.