- Written by Chris Lannin
Three years ago, Kirk Kennedy left Lowell after nineteen seasons and 161 wins on the Red Devils sideline and headed south to Bloomington. Thursday, after three seasons and just four victories as head coach at Bloomington South, Kirk Kennedy resigned as the Panthers head coach.
According to Kennedy, there were many factors at work behind his decision to step down besides the apparent lack of success on the football field.
“There were a lot of things that entered into the decision,” said Kennedy. “But no matter what was involved the responsibility ultimately comes down to the coaching staff. And since I just couldn’t see that things were going to improve any time soon, I decided to resign.”
One of the factors Kennedy cited was the unpopularity of his offensive philosophy. The spread offense is the offense of choice down south, but as Region football followers know, Kirk Kennedy is an old school football coach; Kennedy likes to run the football.
Kennedy brought a run first, I-formation offensive philosophy to Bloomington South; a between the tackles, smash-mouth ground attack that followers of Region football understand and love, but southern Indiana doesn’t. Bloomington South plays in Conference Indiana, where the football is in the air more often than not, and basketball is king.
“When I came here, I brought along a program that had a proven track record of success at Lowell,” said Kennedy. “But there were already doubters when I got here, because in our system we just weren’t going to throw the football enough. And when we didn’t have success, the number of those doubters continued to grow.”
Kennedy feels that the Panthers lack of success playing power football not only led to greater doubt amongst the players, but in the Bloomington South community at large.
And because Bloomington South is an Indiana high school basketball powerhouse, the Panthers lack of success on the gridiron also led to a subsequent malaise toward football in general.
“To have a successful football program, the kids have to buy into the program and believe in what you’re doing, and for that to happen you need the support of the parents,” continued Kennedy.
“So the fact that we didn’t throw the ball enough affected how much some of the kids bought into what we were trying to do. And without the parents supporting what we were trying to do it made for a bad marriage.”
“As the coach I’m ultimately responsible (for the record), and looking back, sure, there are some things I would do differently,” said Kennedy. “But looking forward, I realized that I just can’t do it by myself. I need help.”
“So looking at the situation and not seeing any potential for change, I decided it would be best for everyone if I resigned. I wasn’t forced out or anything like that, but I just didn’t see what good it would do for me to continue.”
As far as the future is concerned, Kennedy wants to continue to coach football, and would love to return to the Region if the right opportunity were to present itself.
“The decision to leave Lowell was the hardest decision I ever made because I miss Region football,” said Kennedy. “But leaving Lowell wasn’t about football.”
“Over the course of the last two years there were some job opportunities (in the Region) so naturally I was conflicted about staying the course here or maybe returning to the Region. But I decided I wanted to see this thing through here.”
“And at the start of this season I was excited because I thought we might finally have something happening,” Kennedy recalled. “We had a good summer at the IU football camp, we had a good scrimmage against Center Grove and then we blasted Bedford North Lawrence in the opener; but then the wheels fell off.”
“So in the end, I decided that I didn’t want to just continue to split rocks,” said Kennedy. “I still have a job here because I have my position as assistant athletic director, but I still want to coach football. So if an opportunity were to present itself in the Region I would love to come back. It’s where I belong.”