PHILIPPI, W.Va. — In December 2017, South Harrison High School football coach Brad Jett announced he was retiring following a 34-year coaching career.
Jett had spent the last 20 of those seasons as the Hawks’ head coach and won 126 games, before deciding to step away from the sidelines.
Jett followed through on that retirement, but only for one year. He was recently hired as the associate head coach of sprint football at Alderson Broaddus University.
“I was substitute teaching half the day at Bridgeport High School and my phone rang. I was getting ready to go play golf that Thursday and it said Philippi,” Jett recalled. “I answered the phone and it was Dennis Creehan, the athletic director of Alderson Broaddus. He said, ‘how would you like to coach football this fall?’ I said, ‘yeah right.’ And he says, ‘no we’re starting a new sprint football program and we’d like to talk to you about coaching the team.’
“I told them I couldn’t believe a university would call a power coach from a little high school, and I thought who is this? I really didn’t believe it until the vice president (for enrollment management) Eric Shorr chimed in and said when can you come up?”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Although Jett asked to come in for his interview the following Monday because he didn’t have his resume or letters of recommendation, the AB administration convinced him to come in the very next day.
“I asked if I could have the weekend to decide,” Jett said. “I’ve been married 36 years, and my wife probably thought me coaching was all over for good, but I went home and talked to her. My wife and grandson were all for it.”
Alderson Broaddus’ sprint football program will begin competition in the fall of 2019 as part of the 10-team Collegiate Sprint Football League (CSFL).
Formerly referred to as lightweight football, sprint football requires players to weigh no more than 178 pounds during game weeks and tip the scales at no more than 183 pounds on game day.
The CSFL features four Division I schools — Army, Navy, Cornell and Pennsylvania — along with six Division II schools in AB, Caldwell, Mansfield, Chestnut Hill, Post and St. Thomas Aquinas. It is split into North and South divisions and AB will be in the South.
The Battlers are replacing Franklin Pierce, which dropped its sprint program last fall.
“We’re the furthest school south and the furthest one west,” Jett said. “We’re also the only Division 2 school with a regular football program and a sprint program.”
Sprint football is 11-on-11 and players wear pads, but no athletic money can be offered.
“You’re looking for that student athlete that’s 180 pounds or less and somebody that’s maintained at least a 3.0 or 3.25 GPA to where it fits into what AB does with academic money,” Jett said.
Up to 64 players can be on a team’s roster.
The Battlers will play a seven-game schedule over eight weeks starting Aug. 21. The season ends in early November with the two CSFL division winners clashing in the title game.
Thus far, Jett has recruited all throughout West Virginia in his short tenure at AB, hitting every part of the state but the southwest.
“Everywhere has been great going out to talk to the kids, especially the smaller double A and single A schools,” Jett said. “I played linemen 150 pounds or smaller at South Harrison, so I know the smaller athlete can do it. I think it’s a good thing to get started and it’ll be exciting for Alderson Broaddus.
“I wish I was 28, but at 58, it’s been a great learning experience all over again.”