After 48 years coaching, a state championship, and more than 300 wins, Oak Ridge football coach Joe Gaddis is retiring.
On Tuesday, Gaddis, who has the most wins of any Oak Ridge coach and is among the top in the state, said he made the decision to retire during the past few weeks.
“I think coaches just know when it’s time,” he said. “You just kind of know.”
Oak Ridge High School Principal Garfield Adams said Gaddis has an overall record of 334 wins and 146 losses, and he is one of only three active coaches in the state of Tennessee with 300 wins.
“At Oak Ridge High School, Coach Gaddis holds a record of 196 wins and 58 losses, making him the winningest coach in Oak Ridge history and the eighth winningest coach in Tennessee football,” Adams said.
“I’m definitely proud of that,” Gaddis said when asked about his record on Tuesday. “A lot of great players and coaches certainly helped to make that happen.”
In addition to his wins, Gaddis won a state championship with the 1991 Oak Ridge team and brought the 2020 team to the state championship game, where the Wildcats finished as Class 5A runner-up.
“We have been privileged to have such a legendary coach lead our Oak Ridge Wildcats for two decades,” Adams said.
Gaddis was inducted into the Tennessee Football Hall of Fame in 2018, Adams said.
Gaddis started his coaching career at a junior high school in Orlando, Florida, after graduating from the University of Central Florida with a double major in physical education and history in 1974.
His first job in Tennessee was the next year at Ripley High School in west Tennessee. He has coached at Oak Ridge twice, from 1988-1998 and from 2013 until this year. That’s 20 seasons total at Oak Ridge, or about half of his 40 years coaching in Tennessee.
Gaddis has also coached a few years in Mississippi, three years in Alabama, and two in North Carolina.
Of his 48-year coaching career, Gaddis said: “That’s a pretty good while.”
He said career highlights include the 1991 semifinal game against Central, which Oak Ridge won in overtime 42-41. The win sent the Wildcats to the state championship game.
“I think it’s the best football game I’ve ever been a part of,” Gaddis said.
The 2020 run, when Oak Ridge returned to the state championship game, was also a highlight, the coach said. The Wildcats beat Powell during the regular season and Rhea County in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs. Then, they defeated West in a rematch in the quarterfinals and South-Doyle in a semifinal game at home. Oak Ridge won nine games straight to reach the Class 5A final after losing three of their first five games during the regular season.
During his career, Gaddis has coached some legendary players at Oak Ridge, including Shawn Summers in the 1980s and 1990s and Tee Higgins more recently, with many other great players in between.
After his first 11-season stint here, Gaddis came back to Oak Ridge in 2013.
“The tradition of Oak Ridge football is second to none,” Gaddis said. “That’s number one. It’s a great job. It’s a great city. It’s a great tradition.”
There are high expectations here, which might seem unrealistic to some people, “but I think that makes us better,” Gaddis said. The Wildcats are unusually successful in both academic and athletic excellence, he said.
Although he is retiring from football, Gaddis will continue to teach at ORHS in the wellness department.
It’s not the only Oak Ridge football coaching change announced this week. Hardin Valley Academy announced Monday it has hired Oak Ridge defensive coordinator Jeff Miner as head coach.
Gaddis said he coached Miner back in the 1990s.
“He was a really good football player, and he’s an even better coach,” Gaddis said.
ORHS Athletic Director Mike Mullins said Gaddis had notified Mullins and the football team of his plan to retire, and as of Monday, a plan to replace him hadn’t been developed yet.
“We will miss our beloved coach,” Adams said. “We are grateful for his leadership and commitment to our community and the Oak Ridge High School football program. Thank you, Coach Joe Gaddis, for your many years of dedication to our young me that you have mentored and have been a role model for.”
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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