MOUNT ZION — Mike Popovich has decided to begin a new and certainly interesting chapter to his career as the Mount Zion High School football coach on Wednesday accepted the job at Morthland College.
“Interesting is a good way to put it,” said Popovich, who is making the move to be closer to family in Tennessee. “I think it will be exciting, and I know Mount Zion will find a quality person to come in here.”
Morthland College is private school in West Frankfort that opened its doors in 2011. Last year it began football with 26 athletes playing a junior varsity schedule.
The school has about 100 full-time students. In comparison, Mount Zion had 95 players in the football program this past season.
“They're a young program,” Popovich said of Morthland. “I don't think anybody in Decatur had heard of Morthland College until this morning. So we're already doing something right.
“It is kind of starting off new. But at the same time, it gives me a chance to start a foundation and do things my way.”
Popovich leaves after three seasons with Mount Zion. He was 15-14 with his teams making the playoffs the past two seasons. His teams were best known for their fast-paced, prolific offenses. His 2014 team averaged 43.5 points.
“I was really happy with what Mike was doing as our head football coach,” Mount Zion athletic director Mike Mose said. “He made football exciting for the kids. And he increased our numbers every year that he was here. He just kind of brought back a level of excitement to the program.
Mose said the school was notified on Wednesday so it was too soon to know of a hiring timetable but the move could be left to the new athletic director. That person could be hired at the March 15 school board meeting.
Popovich's departure means Mount Zion will be looking for its fourth head coach since Tim Nolen left in 2008.
The Morthland web site said the school received more than 65 applicants for the job and Popovich was one of two finalists. The other was Nick Taylor, the defensive coordinator at Briar Cliff University.
Mose feels good that Morthland made a good decision.
He said Popovich has the “dynanimic personality needed to support a program” and “he truly cared about players on and off the field, and that's a good characteristic to have as a head football coach.”
Popovich got a feel for recruiting and college football when he was an offensive coach for the Army Sprint football program.