DECATUR — Eisenhower didn't have to look far to find its next football coach.
At Tuesday's Decatur School Board meeting, Eisenhower athletic director Steve Thompson was approved by the board as Eisenhower's new football coach, effective Aug. 6.
Thompson replaces Curtis Graham, who announced his resignation in November after one season as Panthers coach.
"Things fell into place right now and the opportunity was there and it felt like the timing was right that I could come in and bring some guys in on the staff to give our kids a good experience," Thompson said. "The first thing we are going to do is have a strong staff that is going to make it fun for the kids first and foremost. We really need to attack our numbers and get our numbers back up and then try to coach the kids the right way and build fundamentals."
Thompson will have a challenge. The Panthers, who made playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016, were 0-9 last season and 1-17 the last two years.
"Our program will benefit from having the familiarity of a current staff member, who students feel comfortable with and will work hard to continue the rich Panther traditions of our past teams," Eisenhower principal Amy Zahm-Duncheon said in a statement.
Additionally, the drainage and grass growth problems of the Eisenhower football field forced the team to play at Millikin's Lindsay Field for home games last season.
"Right now the district is working pretty hard with the architect and (the architect) is going back through things from the beginning with that field. They have done some work since the fall and continue to work on it," Thompson said. "We will reevaluate it in April and the first part of May and make a determination at that time what our options are. Ideally we want to play at Eisenhower. That's the best for our kids, but it has to be a good surface to play on."
Thompson, a Bement High School and Millikin graduate, coached football at Oakland from 2002 to 2005 and was a defensive coordinator at Romeoville. Before becoming Eisenhower's athletic director, he was a running backs and linebackers coach at LSA under Craig Bundy.
With Bundy leaving LSA and joining MacArthur's staff as an offensive coach, the city rivalry will have an added ingredient next year.
"Coach Spates has done a great job — he's a heck of a coach in his own right and he has brought on Scott Davis and now Coach Bundy, both Hall of Famers. They are loaded up, that's for sure," Thompson said.
Thompson will serve as both athletic director and football coach.
"We are still in the process of working out a plan of what it's going to look like in the fall because obviously that's a lot of duties and we are going to work on that plan and figure out what it will look like," he said.