By JASON GORDON
Hays High School head coach Blake Feldt may soon be coaching football under the most famous Friday night lights in the nation.
Feldt is one of three finalists for the Odessa Permian High School head football coaching job.
Permian was made famous by H.G. Bissinger’s 1990 book “Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream,” which chronicled the Panthers’ 1988 season. A 2004 film and a primetime TV series, which ran from 2006-2011, were also based on the book.
Since opening in 1959, Permian has captured six state football championships, 24 district championships and has been voted the national high school champions twice. The school’s last state title came in 1991.
“I think Odessa Permian is the most prolific job in the country, not just in Texas,” said Feldt, who has guided Hays High to playoff wins during both his seasons leading the Rebels. “It’s the only high school in America where you can be in New York or Los Angeles and mention its name and they know exactly who the Permian Panthers are.”
Feldt, who led Pilot Point to the 2009 Class 2A Division I state title, has had nothing but success since taking over at Hays for Bob Shelton, the only head football coach the school had ever known since opening in 1968. Feldt was officially hired at Hays in February 2011.
As athletic coordinator, every team sport has made the playoffs under Feldt. His football coaching record has been stellar as well, as Feldt led Hays to consecutive district titles for the first time in school history and a playoff win in both 2011 and 2012. Feldt’s overall record at Hays is 18-6, including a 15-3 stretch during the Rebs’ last 18 games.
“I’m very proud of all of the success we’ve had at Hays,” Feldt said. “I’ve been fortunate to coach some outstanding athletes here and I have an incredible supporting cast around me.”
Still, Feldt is a West Texas man first and foremost.
He attended Midland High School and played football and was a graduate assistant at Texas Tech University.
“Permian is a job I’ve dreamed about ever since I was a little boy,” Feldt said. “I remember when I was a graduate assistant at Tech and head coach Jerry Moore asked me if I could have any high school coaching job in the state what would it be? I told him I wanted to be the head football coach at Odessa Permian.”
Gary Gaines, who was head coach at Permian during the “Friday Night Lights” season and led the Panthers to the 1989 Class 5A state title, resigned in mid-December after a second stint coaching the Panthers.
He was unable to capture the magic he brought to the team during his first run at the school, finishing with a 23-21 overall record from 2009-12. Permian finished 5-6 this past season, losing in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year.
“We’re going to give it to someone else and, hopefully, they can make more out of it than we did,” Gaines told the Associated Press. “We came here to make some deep playoff runs and we weren’t able to do that. That’s what (Permian fans) expect, and I expect as well.”
Other finalists for the job are Westlake offensive coordinator Ted Willmann and Gregory-Portland High School’s head coach Matt Anastasio. Anastasio was Westlake’s defensive coordinator before leaving to take the Gregory-Portland job in 2011. Westlake lost in the Class 5A Division II state semifinals 31-28 against Cedar Hill in December. Gregory-Portland went three rounds deep in the Class 4A Division I playoffs last season before getting pounded 44-7 by Leander Rouse.
School district officials are expected to pick Permian’s next head football coach from the list of finalists by the end of the week.