COVINGTON — Becoming a head football coach would normally be a daunting task. But when you’re taking over at a place whose stadium bears your grandfather’s name, the load can be even greater.
Such is the case for Greg Salter.
The eldest of 19 grandchildren of longtime Covington High football coach Jack Salter will take over the program immediately, said the school’s principal, Roslyn Hanson, on Friday.
Greg Salter has been an assistant football coach at Covington for 12 seasons. He succeeds his former boss, Malter Scobel, who was fired 21/2 weeks ago.
Salter will be pressed to lead the Lions back to the top of the Northshore district (6-5A), where they’ve been fairly mediocre since going 9-2 under former coach and current athletic director Darryl Graham in 2004. Salter’s grandfather won 15 district titles in 33 years as coach and won the Louisiana Class AAAA championship in 1976, finishing 15-0.
“I grew up on those sidelines from the time I was 2 and 3 years old. I’m extremely humbled and gracious,” Greg Salter said. “This is a dream come true for me. It’s something I never thought would happen, but I am certainly glad it did.”
The Lions were 26-26 overall and 17-16 in district play over the past five years under Scobel and made the playoffs in four of those seasons. However, they were not able to win any postseason games, and haven’t defeated rival St. Paul’s since 2003, prompting Hanson to make a change in one of her first moves since being named incoming principal in April.
“I have a ton of respect for (St. Paul’s), and to say that’s the game we need to win, there’s no question, because they are the cream of the crop,” Salter said. “St. Paul’s and Mandeville are the two best teams in the district, and our goal is to win a district championship, and they will be the two biggest games of the year for us. … In ’04, we went 9-1 (in the regular season), and (St. Paul’s) beat us in Week 9. (Not beating them) definitely doesn’t sit well with the alumni.”
Salter graduated from Covington in 1996, and his senior season was the last for his grandfather. He has been an assistant coach there since 2001 as a defensive assistant and special teams coordinator, and has been a full-time teacher at the school since 2003.
“The community is very excited, and they are very rich in tradition and rally behind their team,” Hanson said. “I know he has a good plan in place in order to move the team forward. I know he’ll spark enthusiasm, and I’m looking to him to be a strong community leader.”
While excited his grandson will be taking over, Jack Salter “hated to see” Scobel be fired.
“I didn’t have anything to do with it,” he said. “I didn’t go to the school board, and I didn’t press anyone. If he made it, he made it. That’s the way that it was. ... I never had any disagreements with coach Scobel, and I watched practice every day.
“Covington football is a big deal to me still — in fact, even more so now. ... It’s going to take hard work by my grandson and his coaches and his football players to get them back. They’re going to have to put in the time. I think they can do it, and we almost did it last year. We just faltered a bit at the end of the season.”
Besides having “some senior leadership mixed in with some inexperience,” Greg Salter said he understands the challenge that lies in front of him. With his last name, he also knows that won’t make things any easier.
“There certainly will be expectations, but none higher than what I am going to put on myself,” he said. “(His name) is definitely going to be a tough part of the job, but there will be plenty of other bumps in the road. I’m not going to base decisions trying to match up to him, because there aren’t many coaches in the state over the past 50 years who have accomplished what he has.
“That would be unfair for anyone, including me. But if I can touch lives like he did, and hold myself with the same class and dignity he has, that’s all I’m aiming for.”