Chad Morris speaks at a press conference held by the Allen ISD to announce Morris as the new head football coach in Allen on Thursday, April 1, 2021.(Stewart F. House / Special Contributor)
By Joseph Hoyt
2:15 PM on Apr 1, 2021
ALLEN — When word of Terry Gambill’s decision to retire reached Chad Morris, the former college head coach decided to send Gambill a text message wishing him the best. Morris then turned to his wife, Paula, and mentioned the head coach opening at Allen.
“Hey,” he recalled saying to her, “would you have a problem if something happened?”
By throwing out the question, Morris was signaling his interest in returning to his roots as a high school coach and — at least for the imminent future — leaving behind what once appeared to be a promising, up-and-coming college coaching career.
Would his wife be intrigued by the possibility of trading in the Southeastern Conference for arguably the biggest high school job in Texas, and maybe the country?
“She kind of grinned ear-to-ear,” Morris said, “and I think she’s had enough of me sitting around the house for a good while.”
On Wednesday, exactly two weeks after the Allen job was posted, Morris was announced as the school’s next head football coach. The former SMU and Arkansas head coach said he had entertained job opportunities at both the college and NFL level, but he saw Allen as a good fit for what he wanted to do next.
The combination of a former college head coach mixed with the biggest high school in Texas is sure to raise the already sky-high expectations that comes with the Allen football program. Morris, a coach with three UIL state championship titles in his past, is aware of those expectations. He met with his new football team on Wednesday and said he was transparent about exactly that.
“I just assured them they’re going to get everything I’ve got,” Morris, wearing a new Allen Eagles sweater, told reporters on Thursday. “And we’re going to give every ounce of energy we have to being an Allen Eagle and to being together and to building on the expectations to win. You’re an Allen Eagle, you’re expected to win and you’re expected to win championships, and the expectations are not going to change.”
It comes with the territory for a program that’s never lost a game inside its $60 million stadium, has won five state championships and enters next season with a regular season winning streak that’s lasted 83 games. But Morris has his own high school winning streak on the line, too. In two years at Lake Travis he went 32-0 and won back-to-back state championships before he left to be an assistant coach at Tulsa.
Morris has said multiple times in the past that he never really stopped being a high school coach at heart, but his success at the high school level led him to the college ranks.
He eventually turned the job at Tulsa into an offensive coordinator job at Clemson, which he turned into a head coaching job at SMU. In his third season at SMU, he went 7-5 before taking the head coaching job at Arkansas. He signed a six-year contract worth an average $3.5 million per year, but after nearly two seasons there he was fired. He spent last season as the offensive coordinator at Auburn, but after head coach Gus Malzahn was fired, Morris wasn’t retained.
After Auburn, Morris got his belongings in a U-Haul truck and started driving back to east Texas, where he said he’s been living the past few months. On the drive back, without a next job to prepare for, Morris had the chance to reflect about where he wanted his career to go next. He kept thinking about his two kids and being closer to them. His daughter, Mackenzie, is a recruiting operations coordinator for North Texas football and his son, Chandler, is a quarterback at TCU.
From a career standpoint, Morris also thought about something that had been missing.
“That missing link is the ability to impact lives,” Morris said, “and bring something to the coaches of today that are coming into this business that mean mentoring.”
Allen offered a chance to accomplish that and be closer to his kids.
“I don’t know if I was retired,” Morris said, “but that lured me back into coaching at a place where I think the culture [has been] established.”
Morris isn’t the first person to go from college head coach back to Texas high school football. Todd Dodge, for example, went from being a state champion at Southlake Carroll to the head coach at North Texas. After four seasons there he was dismissed. He started coaching at Marble Falls and then Austin Westlake, where he’s been for seven seasons. He’s led Westlake to state championship titles the last two seasons, including last year’s 6A Division I championship win against his son, Riley, now the head coach at Carroll.
Morris didn’t rule out a return to coaching at the college level one day, but he said he’s excited to be the head coach at Allen — a job that provided everything he needed right now.
“When you start looking and start talking to college coaches all across the country, everyone knows who Allen is,” Morris said, “and the quality of players that come out of here.”
And, especially now, the state championship expectations that come with this combination.