KiJuan Ware, secondary coach at Eastern Michigan University this past season, has been named head football coach at Central High School, Pounders athletic director Jerry Fomby confirmed Friday afternoon.
Ware, originally from Hartford, Conn., where he was a three-sport star in football, basketball and baseball and earned all-conference honors on the gridiron and the diamond, was at Eastern Michigan for one season, but in the midst of a coaching change was not retained by new Eagles coach Chris Creighton.
He sought other positions at the college and high school level, but Central was the only high school job he applied for.
The last time Ware coached high school football was in 2001 at Weaver High in Hartford. While there, Ware helped Weaver win state championships in 1997 and 2001. At Weaver, Ware taught math and coached football for five years.
“I’ve been coaching for 17 years and had some great moments in college,” Ware said in a telephone interview with Chattanoogan.com. “The last few years have been challenging because I’ve been away from my wife and daughter.
“My daughter (Kalyx) is 4 now and needs daddy around more. My wife has a great career and I want her to chase her dreams a little bit.”
Michelle Ware is currently an academic advisor at Notre Dame University.
Ware said he would assume his new duties “as soon as possible” and wants that to be before the Purple Pounders begin spring practice.
Coach Ware said he officially accepted Central’s offer Friday morning and Fomby was thrilled to hear the good news.
“We’re very happy to have KiJuan as our head football coach,” Fomby said. “He was the number one candidate of the search committee and we’re fortunate to have a coach of his caliber come to Central High School.
“We are confident he’s the person to lead our program to the next level.”
Prior to Ware’s one season at Eastern Michigan, in Ypsilanti, Mich., he coached running backs in 2011 and was the Leathernecks’ offensive coordinator in 2012.
Two years ago, Western Illinois running backs posted five 100-yard rushing efforts in 2013, including two against North Dakota State, the only time all season the FCS national champion allowed that to happen.
In 2012, WIU ranked third among Football Championship Series teams with a 94 percent red zone efficiency rating.
Ware joined Western Illinois after two years at Miami (Ohio) where he helped orchestrate one of the best turnarounds in NCAA Division I history.
The Redhawks went from 1-11 in Ware’s first year to 10-4 in 2010 and was part of the Mid-American conference championship team that defeated Middle Tennessee State University in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Miami went from averaging 71 rushing yards per game in 2009 to 98.3 yards in 2010 while recording five more rushing touchdowns (14 in 2010). He coached two-time MAC East Player of the Week and Most Valuable Player of the 2010 MAC title game (Thomas Merriweather).
Before his time at Miami, Ware spent the 2008 season at Notre Dame working as an offensive intern. He worked with the running backs and special teams as the Fighting Irish won the 2008 Hawaii Bowl. Ware was also responsible for film breakdown, scouting reports, playbooks and other day-to-day office duties.
He spent two seasons at each Dartmouth (2004-05) and Georgetown (2006-07) working as the recruiting coordinator and with the receivers before his time at Notre Dame.
Ware began his collegiate coaching career working at his alma mater Springfield College for two years. During his time there, he worked with both running backs and receivers. Springfield captured consecutive Freedom Football Conference championships and back-to-back Division III rushing titles.
During his undergraduate career at Springfield, Ware was a two-sport standout in football (quarterback) and baseball (pitcher and first baseman). He graduated in 1997 with a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and computer science. He earned his master's degree from Springfield College in physical education and athletic administration.
In January 2000, he was selected as a Fulbright Scholar - chosen for his academic merit and leadership potential, and studied in Tokyo. Ware was one of 15 selected to participate in the NCAA Football Coaching Academy during the summer of 2006. In June 2010 Ware attended the NCAA Expert Coaches Academy.
Now, Ware is focused on starting a new career at Central, which competes in the TSSAA’s District 6-AA.
“I was really impressed with the people and students at Central High,” Ware said. “They have caring people there, people who care about students and the school has a family atmosphere. It’s not all about athletics. It’s the young people.”
Ware replaces John Allen, who left Central to become the head football coach at Powell High near Knoxville, a team that finished 5-5 in 2013 missed the state playoffs for the first time since 2000.
Under Allen, the Pounders went 5-6 last season, losing to Sequoyah, 34-3, in first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)