News Staff Report
Earlier this year, Jason Barnett was named interim athletic director and interim head football coach at Citronelle High School. Those titles were upgraded last week.
According to a story published on AL.com, CHS Principal Randy Campbell announced November 23 that he had ended the search for a permanent head coach by choosing Barnett — an Atmore native whose coaching career includes 11 years at two local high schools — as the man to lead the team.
Campbell, who had promised a “full interview process” in 2019, apparently changed his mind after an outpouring of unsolicited support the coach received in the wake of the just-completed season.
After accepting the interim AD and coaching positions less than a month prior to the start of the season, Barnett guided the Wildcats to a 6-4 regular-season mark and into the AHSAA Class 5A playoffs, where they dropped a 21-13 decision to Bibb County.
“I’ve appointed him to be our head coach and athletic director without the interim title and immediately,” Campbell reportedly said to the online news service. “He did a great job. He really rallied the kids in a bit of a tough situation and on short notice. I was very pleased. Parents, players, teachers have all told me at one time or another that they wanted Coach Barnett to be the guy, and I’m happy to give him that chance.”
Barnett played football and baseball at Escambia County High School. He graduated from ECHS in 1992 then went on to play two years of baseball at Alabama Southern and two years of football at Auburn, where he made the SEC team as a walk-on.
His coaching career includes seven years at Escambia Academy, four years at Escambia County, and two years each at Monroe County and Baldwin County. He arrived in Citronelle three years ago as defensive coordinator under Rusty Funk, who agreed in June to resign after his teams went 13-18 with one playoff appearance.
Campbell told AL.com that the football team’s performance, as well as Barnett’s vision for the entire Wildcats athletic program, made him the only logical choice to coach the school’s football team.
“They had some adversity and some injuries but they worked through it,” Campbell said. “He rallied the whole staff. As athletic director, he’s been very supportive of our other programs as well. We’ve had some detailed discussions about that and where they can go. This is the right move for Citronelle.”
Barnett, 44, said in a July interview with the same media outlet that divine intervention played a role in his arrival at CHS. He added that he felt at home in the Mobile County community of around 4,000 residents.
“God led me to Citronelle three years ago for a reason,” he said. “I’ve told everyone who will listen that it is the best decision I ever made. When we arrived, everything was kind of in disarray — mainly because of the construction of the new school.
“Now, we’ve found a home. Everything is where we want it. It’s been hard, but at the same time, I love this place. It’s unique in its own ways, but also similar to some of the places I’ve worked before. To have the opportunity to be here and move up the ladder is really a blessing. I’m very excited.”