Layna Dewell, NewsOn6.com
TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma – Tahlequah High School's head football coach and athletic director Charlie Cooper resigned Monday due to health issues.
According to Tahlequah Superintendent Shannon Goodsell, Cooper announced his resignation to the team Monday stating that back issues are the reason for his departure.
"He (resigned) because of medical reasons, he has some issues with his back that is requiring him to take medicine and so he felt like because of health reasons that it was just time," said Goodsell.
In Cooper's absence, assistant coach and defensive coordinator Brad Gilbert has been named the interim head coach.
"Both coach Cooper and I agreed in naming Coach Gilbert as your interim head coach," said Goodsell. "He is a great coach and he will do a great job."
Cooper has had two coaching stints at Tahlequah, the first from 1980 to 1992 and then again the past two seasons. Cooper won five district championships and made eight playoff appearances during his first 13-years at Tahlequah and overall the head coach has compiled a 97-67 record, making him the winningest coach in the programs history.
"Charlie is a great coach and I am very appreciative that our young men have gotten the opportunity to learn the game of football from a great coach," said Goodsell. "The one thing that Charlie taught the boys of Tahlequah is not just about football, but there's a whole lot more to it than that and a lot of discipline, respect and hard work and a lot of life lessons that I think will carry these fine young men a long way; a lot more than the X's and O's."
The team received the news before practice on Monday, and although they were disappointed, the young men understood the situation.
"Obviously they understand, but obviously they are heartbroken," said Goodsell. "They loved Coach Cooper, we love Coach Cooper, I mean everybody loves Coach Cooper. Health wise we all want the best for Coach Cooper and we understand and we are here to support him. They were kind of bummed a little bit, but they all understood."
Superintendent Goodsell said the school has two options as far as naming a new head coach. They can either name Gilbert the head coach at some point this year, or they will open up the position and hire a new coach. Either way, Goodsell says they have "not even remotely considered any of those options yet."
As far as the administrative duties that Cooper was in charge of, Goodsell says the duties will be split between other administrators for the time being.
So far his season, Cooper led the Tigers to a 2-1 start but in Cooper's last game last Friday the Tigers fell to Sallisaw 40-7.
"We are just focused on this team and this season and we are focused on Coach Gilbert and Friday night," said Goodsell.
Tahlequah opens conference play this Friday at 7:30 p.m. against Tulsa Central.
"I'm sure trying to keep Coach Cooper off of a sideline on a Friday night is going to be a next to an impossible task," said Goodsell. "What I am the most proud of is that our young men got to learn the game of life from a great man."