The only football coach the Island Coast Gators program has ever known has stepped down after seven seasons.
The mutual decision was made last Friday in a meeting between coach Joe Bowen, athletic director Liam Farrell and principal Kristin Bueno. A nationwide search for Bowen's replacement started immediately.
"I'm proud of the success of the program in the last few years and getting kids into college," said Bowen, who leaves with a six-year varsity record of 42-19. "I'm leaving all my options open and we'll see what the future brings."
Bowen has not ruled out coaching again, but remains at Island Coast in his teaching position at the present time. Bowen's teams won three district championships and one regional title.
"You can talk about championships, and that is good for the school, but the thing I'm most proud of is getting 30 players into college over the last five years," Bowen said.
In a prepared release, Bueno expressed pleasure with the positive experiences Bowen has provided the student athletes, and his ability to establish a winning program in a short period of time.
"We posted the job on the FHSAA and Lee County Schools sites," said Farrell. "I wasn't at school today, but we got so many resumes by email that I had to have someone clean out my inbox."
Farrell hopes to have a new coach in place the first of March to prepare for running spring practices.
"There is some added value for someone who understands this area, but not at the expense of quality individual," said Farrell. "Bowen did a great job with the program and we appreciate him creating a winning tradition and his dedication to providing college opportunities for his athletes."
Bowen built the program from scratch, playing a limited freshman schedule in 2007 before moving up to varsity. In six varsity seasons, the Gators never experienced a losing season. The 2009 team went 6-5 and the 2010 team achieved the school's best record so far of 11-2. The Gators have enjoyed four consecutive seasons with three or fewer losses ending with a 7-3 mark for 2013.