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Bryant board OKs Sanders as coach

by Sam Lane | June 1, 2023 at 2:30 a.m.
Quad Sanders (left) and Buck James are shown in these undated file photos. Sanders was named the new head football coach at Bryant High School on Wednesday, May 31, 2023, during a special meeting of the Bryant school board. He replaces James, who resigned to take the same position at Conway. (Left, courtesy photo; right, special to the Democrat-Gazette/Jimmy Jones)

Quad Sanders couldn't believe what he was hearing when he first got word Tuesday morning that Buck James was leaving Bryant High School to become Conway High School's Head Football Coach.

Within an hour, Sanders received a call from Bryant Athletic Director Kirk Bock and Bryant Superintendent Dr. Karen Walters to offer him the newly vacant role.

Sanders, who had left Bryant to become Jonesboro's head coach in March, was confirmed as the Hornets' new football coach by a unanimous vote Wednesday night at a special meeting of the Bryant School Board.

"It is probably by far the hardest decision I've ever had to make," Sanders said of leaving Jonesboro after two months. "It didn't just affect me, it affects my family too. So, that just made it that much harder. ... The decision really boiled down to what was better for my family and not so much what was better for me."

Sanders will officially begin his new role on June 5.

As soon as James informed Bryant administration of his intention to leave, Bock said Sanders was the only person he had any interest in calling. Bock said he and Sanders had previously talked about the latter being the eventual successor to James at Bryant, but the accelerated timeline was of no concern.

"It was an instant phone call," Bock said. "Quad and I talked before he left to go to Jonesboro that, in my opinion, he would be the next guy for this position. We were thinking a couple of years down the road, not a couple of months. And it just so happened that once Coach James' deal was a done deal, that was the first and only phone call I made."

Sanders served as Bryant's defensive coordinator from 2018-22, winning five state championships during his time on staff.

Under Sanders last season, the Hornets' defense held opposing offenses to 11.2 points per game during their undefeated run to a fifth state championship in a row.

Before getting to Bryant, Sanders was an assistant coach at the University of Arkansas-Monticello, McPherson (Kan.) College and Western Colorado University. He played football and basketball at the University of Central Arkansas and was later a graduate assistant with the football team.

Bryant is amidst a 53-game winning streak that dates back to Sanders' first season on staff in 2018.

Bock said that hiring someone who could maintain the level the football program has risen to since James' hiring was imperative.

"After we needed to make a hire, our focus went straight on our kids and our program," Bock said. "Quad was the guy that was gonna keep the program and the kids together. And, you know, for us, it was a no-brainer. He was the one guy we could bring in immediately to continue the tradition that Coach James has started here."

Sanders said current Bryant football players had been texting and calling him all day Tuesday and Wednesday, giving their best elevator pitch for why he should come back. He said he wanted to make them sweat it out until the official board meeting that began at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

"My kids have been calling me all day, and I've been telling them no all day, so I made them sweat," Sanders said. "But that's just the kind of relationship I have with those guys. I knew it would be that much [more] exciting when they found out, for sure."

For those looking ahead at what may already be the most anticipated game of the regular season, Bryant will close out its regular season on Nov. 3 at Conway.

Bryant's hiring of Sanders is just the latest in a whirlwind of coaching moves to close out the month of May. With Sanders heading to Bryant, James to Conway, former Conway assistant Anthony Robinson taking over Little Rock Central on May 11 and North Little Rock coach Randy Sandefur resigning Wednesday, five of the eight 7A Central schools will begin the 2023 season with a new coach.

Jonesboro Athletic Director Trey Harding said he knew Sanders was a likely replacement after hearing of James' move.

"I think everybody kinda wondered, would they reach out to Coach Sanders?" Harding said. "... We kind of thought that that may happen, and then when it did, you know, I don't blame him at all and wish him nothing but the best.

"It shows that we made the right choice on the first hire as far as finding a good candidate."

Print Headline: Bryant board OKs Sanders as coach


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