Less than a year into his tenure at Lehman High, Josh Kirkland is taking his talents to the collegiate level.
Kirkland, who for the past nine months has served as Lehman’s athletic coordinator and head football coach, confirmed he has accepted the roles of assistant head football coach and running backs coach at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio.
Kirkland officially submitted his resignation to Hays CISD on Friday to take the UIW position.
Kirkland will join a staff led by Eric Morris, who was hired as the Incarnate Word head football coach on Dec. 30, 2017.
Taking the job at UIW fulfills a dream of coaching at the college level that couldn’t be passed up, Kirkland said. UIW is a member of the Southland Conference in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), or Division I, level.
“My wife and I dreamed about this since I got into this career,” Kirkland said. “The timing wasn’t great, being at Lehman for a short time, but these kinds of opportunities don’t come often.”
Kirkland said he will have the chance to work with someone he is familiar with. Morris and Kirkland, who both hail from the Lubbock area, grew up 10 miles from one another and regularly faced off against each other on the gridiron in high school.
Both men stayed connected after high school and as both began their paths into coaching.
Kirkland said Morris contacted him shortly after his hire at UIW regarding interest in joining his staff. Morris offered him the position and it took “a few days to work out,” Kirkland said.
On Jan. 5, Kirkland informed his players at Lehman he had been offered a college coaching position, but didn’t disclose any additional details, as it had not been finalized at the time.
Kirkland said he wanted to stay in front of any rumors that may have been circulating online regarding his potential departure.
“I told them nothing had been set in stone, but that I wanted them to hear it from my mouth, and not from Twitter,” Kirkland said. “I wanted them to hear it from me.”
Reaction from players to the offer was mostly positive, but Kirkland said there were players who were upset by the news. Prior to his official hire, Kirkland said he continued to work with Lobo players during offseason workouts.
Kirkland said he believed his move into the college ranks could open recruitment possibilities for Lehman athletes in the future, based on his connection to the program.
“They know if they work hard and they do the things they need to do, they can maybe have a chance to play somewhere,” Kirkland said.
But Kirkland’s move now places Hays CISD on the clock to find his replacement. His departure comes less than a month before the University Interscholastic League (UIL) completes its biennial realignment for all classifications.
It also marks the second time in nine months Hays CISD will seek a new athletic coordinator for Lobo athletics. Hays CISD hired Kirkland in May 2017 to replace Todd Raymond, who left to take the athletic director job at Pflugerville ISD.
Tim Savoy, Hays CISD public information officer, said Betsy Russell, Hays CISD director of student programs, will meet with Lehman principal Denisha Presley on a timeframe to fill the position “as soon as possible.”
However, due to the amount of time needed to post the position for applicants, Savoy said the district doesn’t anticipate filling the Lobo head coaching void before the end of January.
Lobo assistant coach John Proud is expected to lead the football team until the next coach is hired, while Russell will handle athletic coordinator duties.
“We’re excited for coach Kirkland. We were glad to be able to have him. It wasn’t as long as we had hoped, but we wish him the best with this opportunity,” Savoy said. “It’s an opportunity that opened up for his career that he wasn’t expecting.”
“He has put some energy into the program and the campus and helping with the rebranding effort in the fall and we hope to keep that energy going and get a candidate that is as active and excited as Kirkland.”
For Kirkland, starting the process of “changing the culture” at Lehman is what he believes was his largest impact while at Lehman. He said players, coaches and administrators at Lehman were “phenomenal” to work with.
“This is a situation that, when presented…it’s not something we could pass up,” Kirkland said. “The timing isn’t what we wanted it to be, but we have to do what’s best for our kids and our family.”