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FAYETTEVILLE -- Billy Dawson was formally hired as the new head football coach at Fayetteville during a school board meeting Thursday night.

One of Arkansas' most successful high school coaches takes over what he called the "cream of the crop" football program in the state.

"It's the best program in the state and really I think it's untapped in how big and how far this program can go," Dawson said. "So I look forward to that and the challenge of that."

Dawson, who spent the previous two seasons at Class 6A Russellville and guided the Cyclones to their first-ever state championship this past season, was recommended by Fayetteville Superintendent Dr. Matthew Wendt and Athletic Director Steve Janski to replace Bill Blankenship as Fayetteville's football coach. Blankenship resigned earlier this month to return to Oklahoma at Owasso High School near Tulsa after just one season.

The Fayetteville school board unanimously approved Dawson's hire.

Dawson will be paid an annual salary of $91,364, in contract terms released to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette through a Freedom of Information request.

"During the interview process, just how he invests in the community and the district from the ground up is impressive," Janski said. "I think it's going to be so exciting to see his building mentality of building a culture combined with our student-athletes and the support system that we have available."

Dawson has an overall coaching record of 175-56-1, which includes four state championships, seven conference championships and a 33-game winning streak. He compiled a 91-13 record over eight seasons at Nashville, split up between two stints while winning three state titles as coach of the Scrappers.

Dawson graduated from Southern Arkansas University in 1991, but played high school football at Bentonville.

"I can't drive around anymore because I don't know where I'm going," said Dawson, of the local region. "It's grown a lot, but it's a nice place to live up here and we look forward being able to enjoy all the different places and things in Northwest Arkansas."

Blankenship guided Fayetteville to a second-straight Class 7A championship in his only season with the Purple Bulldogs. Blankenship was hired in June of 2016 to replace former coach Daryl Patton, who's resigned earlier that spring.

The Purple'Dogs, winners of four of the last six Class 7A state championships, are expected to come back to pack at least a bit as Gatorade Player of the Year Taylor Powell, Under Armour All-American Akial Byers and slew of other key seniors departs. Both Powell (Missouri) and Byers (Alabama) are expected to sign Division I football scholarships next Wednesday on National Signing Day.

Dawson isn't concerned with the roster, saying that had little to do with accepting the Fayetteville job.

"Let me tell you, I didn't even ask (about the roster)," Dawson said. "I don't know who they've lost and I don't know who's coming back and I don't care.

"This program is going to be successful. We're going to go with what's here and we're going to roll."

Sports on 01/27/2017

Print Headline: Dawson signs up for 'Cream of the Crop' job

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