The timing seemed right to Brian White.
And so on Dec. 9, he announced that he was stepping down after 21 seasons as coach of the Hilliard Davidson football team.
“The old adage is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” White said. “Over the years, there’s been a lot of straws that have added up. I don’t know (if) there’s any one reason. Obviously, my kids (Griffin and Sydney) are an extremely important part it. It’s been a conversation my wife (Jill) and I have had off and on for the past year or so.”
White, 51, is the program’s all-time winningest coach, having compiled a 199-58 record. He guided the Wildcats to 17 postseason appearances, including Division I state championships in 2006 and 2009, and 12 OCC titles.
Davidson finished with a losing record only twice during his tenure: 1999 (his first season) and 2002.
This season, the Wildcats finished 7-4 overall, losing to Groveport 18-17 in the first round of the Region 3 playoffs. They went 4-1 in the OCC-Central Division to share the title with Dublin Coffman and Upper Arlington.
“There’s a great coaching staff in place,” said White, who has no immediate plans to return to coaching. “The reason for our success has never been me. It’s been assistant coaches, it’s been players and the support we’ve had. The program is still in pretty good shape.”
Athletics director Nathan Bobek realizes White’s departure leaves a huge void to fill.
“He’s been coaching 21 years (at Davidson) and he has his kids who are growing up who are both going to be in high school next year,” Bobek said. “Griffin is going to be a junior and Sydney will be a freshman. You knew one day it was going to come.
“I’m extremely happy for him and his family, but at the same time, it’s bittersweet because we’re losing a coaching legend. He’s been part of the culture and a key cog in Davidson athletics for 21 years.”
White, who will remain at Davidson as an intervention specialist, began his coaching career at DeSales, serving as an assistant for seven seasons starting in 1990. He landed his first head coaching job in 1997 at Dublin Scioto and coached Groveport the following year before taking over at Davidson in 1999.
The Wildcats finished 3-7 that season but reached the playoffs the next two years. In 2001, they advanced to the Region 3 final before losing to Dublin Coffman 38-21 to finish 12-1.
“When I took over the program, those kids were sophomores and they were a blessing to have,” said White, a 1986 graduate of Wheelersburg and a 1990 graduate of Capital University. “Many of them started as sophomores and just continued to get better.”
Davidson advanced to a state semifinal five times under White, including 2013, when the Wildcats lost to Cincinnati Moeller 13-11 to finish 13-1.
“It’s fun to win and winning those state championships was unbelievable and literally unbelievable at the time, but the character and the friendship of the kids from 2001 and 2013 surpass even the state championship years,” White said.
Ryan Royer, a 2017 Davidson graduate who now plays for Cincinnati, said the program won’t be the same without White.
“Coach White is Davidson football,” he said. “When you see him stepping down, that’s really shocking, but I’m happy for him. It takes a lot of out of him and it takes a lot of time away from his family.”
Royer began his collegiate career as a walk-on, but credits White for helping him receive a full scholarship.
“I’m so thankful for what coach White did for me,” said Royer, a special teams player for the Bearcats. “He pushed and pushed to (assistant) coach (Marcus) Freeman and (head) coach (Luke) Fickell. They gave me a spot and I was so thankful. I wouldn’t have had an opportunity without coach White. I wasn’t that big and not that fast coming out of high school, but coach White really sold me.”