The Morgan Cruce era at Brighton started with a bang (a 56-26 season-opening win at St. Benedict), had some struggles midway through (a rash of injuries and a four-game losing streak) and ultimately yielded a 3-7 record.
Now it’s over.
The Brighton High administration announced on Tuesday that Cruce, who was hired last December as the school’s head football coach, resigned on Monday after one season at Brighton.
Cruce said he is leaving to take a job as the running backs coach at the University of North Alabama, a Division I school in Florence.
“For five or six years, maybe up to 10, I’ve had an ambition and dream of coaching Division I football,” Cruce said Tuesday morning, a day after breaking the news to his players. “It seemed like the right time, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Cruce and Brighton principal Brian Crowson both said the final meeting with the players was an emotional one.
“Bad timing here,” Cruce said. “(But) I know a coach who said if kids aren’t affected (when you leave) you haven’t really built relationships with kids.”
Crowson said when the coaching search began that landed on Cruce the goal was to find a coach who could build community relations, serve as a positive role model for the players and improve the program.
“I think he’s done that,” Crowson said. “He came and hit the ground running, getting the community back involved, making Brighton football known in the community. He had a big impact on that.”
Added Crowson: “(The meeting) yesterday said it all, the emotions that went across the room. They were upset, sad, but happy for him. That said a lot for me … He’s leaving the program in a better place and that’s all we can ask.”
Cruce said he felt the program was beginning to turn a corner over the last few months of his tenure.
“Probably the thing that stands out the most to me is how I’ve seen the players, as well as the community, really start to join together as a family. There’s been a real sense the last three or four months of brotherhood, family and being a Brightonian come about. That means something to me. That’s something I’ll cherish.”
Crowson said applications for the job will be accepted through Jan. 3 and interviews will be scheduled soon after that.