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Graham resigns as Lexington football coach

The offseason coaching carousel took a very unexpected extra lap Tuesday.

Lexington announced head football coach Kwayu Graham has resigned after one season. The Jackets were 2-3 in the Central Carolina Conference, 3-8 overall this fall.

Lexington athletic director Ronnie Beverly was shocked by Graham’s decision. “I’m really not sure,” Beverly said. “It was a family decision, and he just wants to do something different.

“He’s been excellent for our program. The changes that he’s made for our school, in just a short period of time. The kids are shocked, we’re all shocked. But I’ve got to respect his decision.”

Graham, who came to Lexington three years ago with Joe Gaddis, admitted he never felt completely comfortable with the program. “First of all, I want to say thank you to the city of Lexington for having me as the head football coach,” Graham said. “From the day I got here, there’s been a split.

“A split in the staff, a split in the community, there’s been a split in the administration, there’s been a split with the school board. And it’s tough to get kids, or any kind of team situation — whether you’re in the Army, the United States Government — when there’s a split, nothing gets done.”

Graham noted the city of Lexington has undergone major changes in the last decade or so, and that has made life tougher on everyone in the city, from adults all the way down to children. But he felt like that is on the upswing; he said academic standards for Lexington football players have improved dramatically under his watch, as well as community service projects, and a decrease in discipline problems at the school.

But ultimately, he never attained a sense of job security. “There are a lot of good things going on,” he explained. “But when you deal with so much conflict — not bad conflict, not hostile — it’s tough to get everybody on the same page.

“From the day I got here, there’s been conflict. I don’t know if it’s a North Carolina/Tennessee thing, but it’s been conflict. And I watched how things have gone the last couple of years, how things were going, and we could never get on solid ground because of the separation.”

Graham said the Lexington situation was very similar to the one he left at Austin East High School in Knoxville, Tenn. He said, as a head coach, his teams never ended their seasons before the third round of the playoffs. Lexington did not qualify for the postseason this year.

Graham noted he had a close working relationship with Beverly, Lexington principal Travis Taylor and superintendent Rick Kreisky. But he was concerned he would be measured much more closely by wins and losses than what he did for the students and players he worked with.

“They need unity,” he added. “This program, and this city needs unity. So if I represent that black cloud (of separation), then I need to remove myself.”

Jason Queen can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 220 or