GREENFIELD — When Jared Manning began his masters’ studies seven years ago, he began to realize that one day he’d like to become an athletic director.
There was only one problem: He didn’t want to leave home.
A 1999 Greenfield-Central graduate, Manning played soccer at Franklin College for two years before transferring to Purdue and earning his undergraduate degree in physical education. Manning was hired fresh out of Purdue in 2004 to teach wellness at Greenfield Middle School.
With Kevin Horrigan and Doug Laker entrenched as the high school and junior high athletic director in the corporation at the time, Manning – who garnered his masters in educational administration from Ball State in 2012 – began looking at other available administrative positions in the school system.
Then, the Cougars’ athletic landscape was altered last Friday.
That afternoon, Horrigan emailed his coaches to notify them of his decision to retire at the end of the school year. Horrigan’s retirement was authorized by the Greenfield-Central School Board Monday evening. At that same meeting, Manning was approved as Horrigan’s successor.
“When this job presented itself…it’s one of those positions that doesn’t come along often. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal. I had to jump on it,” said Manning, presently an eighth-grade wellness teacher at G-C Junior High School. “I graduated from here. This is where I got my first teaching job, my first coaching experience. This is where I want to be. I didn’t apply anywhere else. I didn’t look anywhere else. I had people telling me there were jobs open other places – it didn’t interest me. This is where I want to be. This is where I want to continue my career.”
The athletic director position was not posted on the school corporation’s website, and Manning was the only candidate presented to the school board.
“I don’t care whether you’re looking at a principal, a custodian, a teacher. If you’ve got competent people from within, you’d be foolhardy not to look at that,” Greenfield superintendent Linda Gellert said.
G-C principal Steve Bryant and Manning discussed the athletic director possibility during a recent meeting. Bryant called Manning’s hire a “no-brainer” at Monday’s school board meeting.
Manning was surprised to be offered the position so quickly after Horrigan’s retirement.
“Yeah, it happened pretty quick. They knew I was interested. They had heard me in interviews for other positions; they knew what I could offer and things I brought to the table,” Manning said. “I was a bit surprised. I had told people that I would enjoy taking over when Kevin left; I didn’t think it was going to be this soon. I’m excited about it.”
Part of the reason for the rapid movement to hire Manning was due to the extensive amount of administration change throughout the school system, including several principals, Gellert said.
“I have some concerns, as does the board, that there’s a lot of change,” said Gellert, who is also retiring at the end of the school year. “We’ve got multiple principals, the superintendency, the balanced calendar. So it’s kind of like the perfect storm of, ‘Can we get all this done and be full stride by mid-July?’
“Whenever you post and you interview, it just extends the time.”
There are now a pair of varsity head coaching positions to fill, as well.
Due to his newfound obligations as AD, Manning had to resign as boys soccer coach. He informed his players Tuesday morning that he would be stepping down after eight seasons at the helm, a tenure that included a Hoosier Heritage Conference title and two sectional championships. Manning said staying on as boys soccer coach was not an option.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet deal. The worst thing that has come out of this is that I’ll no longer be able to coach those guys,” said Manning, who will also no longer coach JV boys basketball. “They’re a big part of who I am, I owe them a lot. It was tough for me as far explaining to them why this job was appealing to me, how I’m going to stay involved and those types of things – and that I would no longer be able to be their coach.
“It was difficult for me. It was tough. I’ll miss being on the sideline with those guys.”
The first coaching opening came Friday when Josh Johnson resigned after five years heading the boys basketball program.
How the search for the new coaches – and who conducts it – is still up in the air. From the athletic department’s end, a joint effort between Horrigan – whose retirement is effective June 30 – and Manning is likely.
“We haven’t really talked about that. I would assume that there will be some collaboration,” said Manning, who has also coached middle school soccer and middle school basketball as well as freshmen and JV baseball. “Mr. Bryant and myself will play a big role in that. Mr. Laker will as well. We’ll put together a team of people to look at applications, set up some interviews. We have a wide range of teaching openings as well.”
No timetable has been set for the hirings, and Manning expects the two jobs to be posted in the next few days.
Another part of the rationale to move swiftly on bringing in Manning as the new AD was to have Horrigan take him under his wing – a process all parties supported.
“You’ve got summer programming. You’ve got a coach to hire now, with Josh Johnson’s resignation,” Gellert said. “There’s just a lot going on and to not have the opportunity to tap the wonderful resource we have in Kevin would be a shame – my hope is that (Manning) will be able to mentor under Kevin.”
Horrigan was not part of the decision making to hire Manning, but he said he will “absolutely” mentor his replacement.
“Whatever it is that ends up working out, I will certainly work with him now and at the end of the school year. That will include post-school time. Through the summer, I have no problem with helping him out and transitioning,” Horrigan said. “Even though my contract expires June 30, in July I don’t have any problems if he needs me for more assistance. I don’t have a problem coming around. Whether it’s July, August or next May, if he needs something, he can call, text, email me or whatever.
“But, I’m also cognizant that it’s his baby and he needs to take over, and I don’t want him to feel like I’m looking over his shoulder or stepping on his toes. It’s kind of like the mother robin pushing the baby bird out of the nest, at some point he’s got to fly on his own.”
Manning is looking forward to learning from the man who hired him as boys soccer coach back in 2006.
“I’m going to take some time before school, after school and some evenings to come up there and work with him and learn what he does a little better and develop my own thoughts on the process,” he said. “Obviously, with Kevin I have some big shoes to fill. It’s going to take some time to learn everything that he does and to evaluate what I can do, what I can improve and move forward.”
Manning does not have any official administrative experience, but has worked in the front offices on a fill-in basis for administrators at GCJHS and Maxwell Intermediate School in recent years.
“As far as the experience thing goes, I would like to think that during the course of my 10 years here, people have learned what I can and can’t do, and they view my strengths and weaknesses and feel I’m capable of completing this job and doing it successfully,” he said.
The past few days have reminded Horrigan of when he took his first athletic director position.
“He’s going to have a learning curve. When you can focus on one or two sports, that’s different than focusing on all of the sports, but he’s certainly capable of doing that. He’s got to transition himself out of a couple of sports into 20 sports,” Horrigan said of Manning. “When I first became an athletic director 29 years ago, I had to do the same thing. I was a track and cross country coach. I had to look and see everything, and he’s capable of doing that. It’s just an adjustment.”
Manning said one thing he wants to see is increased participation in G-C athletics, all the way down to what he called the “tier one” levels. As far as what the future holds, Manning said Horrigan obtained what amounts to a wish list of improvements coaches would like to see to the facilities a few years ago. That list will be reevaluated.
In any case, it’s safe to say Manning has his dream job. The man who bleeds blue and gold is now in charge of Cougar athletics.
“As far as administrative jobs go, the one piece that was really holding me back and that I was really having an issue with is not being able to coach. This job is kind of the best of both worlds,” Manning said. “I’m still involved in the administrative side of things, and I’m still going to be involved with the athletic piece, which is as anybody who knows me knows, I’m an athletic guy. I enjoy the athletic side of everything and being around the athletes. So, that’s why this particular job appealed to me.”
Family: Wife, April, and daughter, Aubrey.
Education: Greenfield-Central HS, 1999; Purdue University, 2004, B.A. in Physical Education; Ball State University, 2012, M.A. in Educational Administration. Manning also has his principal’s license.
Teaching positions: Wellness, Greenfield Middle School, 2004-10; Eighth-grade wellness, Greenfield-Central Junior HS, 2010-present.
Coaching experience: Middle school soccer (2 years); Middle school basketball (4-5 years); Freshmen, JV baseball (6 years); JV boys basketball (4 years); Varsity soccer (8 years).