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Lorick Atkinson resigns

MURFREESBORO – A promising era ended Friday afternoon.

Three years after taking on the task of rebuilding a struggling program, Lorick Atkinson resigned as Head Football Coach at Chowan University Friday.

“Lorick contacted John Hinton and myself and indicated he would like to resign for personal reasons,” Chowan Athletic Director Dennis Helsel said. “In his letter of resignation, he stated he would resign effective February 8, 2008 and thanked (Chowan President) Dr. (Chris) White for the opportunity to serve as Head Football Coach at Chowan.”

Atkinson came to Chowan University in 2005 after serving as Assistant Head Coach at Gardner-Webb University and led the Hawks to a pair of victories in his first season.

After struggling through a winless 2006 campaign, Chowan won a pair of contests in 2007 including a come from behind win over Newport News Apprentice School in the Oyster Bowl to end the season.

Chowan signed four players to a National Letter of Intent on Wednesday. They were all solid prep players, including Bertie High School’s Ryan White, who are believed to be adding much-needed depth to the Hawks’ roster.

The Chowan football program will be under the direction of Associate Head Coach Richard Lage from now until a search for a permanent replacement is completed. Lage came to Chowan with Atkinson in 2005 and has served as Defensive Coordinator, Assistant Head Coach and Associate Head Coach.

While Lage will handle day-to-day operations and will plan and execute the team’s spring practice, Chowan will be conducting an immediate search for a new coach.

“The timing is not ideal, but I am confident that Richard Lage understands the program and the student-athletes and will transition us forward,” Helsel said.

Lage has accepted Helsel’s offer to become Interim Head Coach, but financial terms of the agreement had not been reached late Monday afternoon.

The timing of the resignation, three months after most coaches change jobs, will present difficulties, the AD admitted, but will not stop the search from being thorough and landing the appropriate coach.

“We had 120 applicants for the head coaching job in women’s soccer and I believe we will get more than that for this opening,” Helsel said. “We owe it to our current student-athletes and those we recruited to do this as expeditiously as possible.

“The timetable is aggressive, but I think we owe it to our student-athletes to make sure they know who their coach is before they leave for the summer,” he added. “We want to do this as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality.”

The search will begin February 15 when the university finalizes members of the search committee. Helsel will chair the group which will include a student-athlete, the Faculty Athletic Representative, an assistant football coach and a member of the board of trustees.

The advertisement for the post will then go out on February 18.

Helsel said the advertisement would include a strong preference for head coaching experience, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division-II experience and three to five years of coaching experience.

He also said he had an idea of the type of person he would like to see become the next football coach.

“I’d like to see a family man with children,” he said. “I want someone that has a history of being involved in his community and someone that understands the D-II philosophy of being a true student-athlete.”

He also said the successful candidate would have a history of caring about the welfare of their players.

“I want someone that doesn’t believe players are just playing for him, but that they have a responsibility to develop them as human beings,” he added. “I also want someone who had demonstrated a background of academic requirements on his teams.”

Helsel said members of the current coaching staff are free to apply for the position if they choose.

The committee is scheduled to meet the week of March 3 and the week of March 10 to review applications. Select candidates will interview with Helsel via telephone the week of March 17.

On campus interviews with the search committee are scheduled to occur the week of March 24 with the goal of naming a new coach Tuesday, April 8.