Longtime South Forsyth head football coach Jeff Arnette announced his resignation Monday morning.
Arnette, who guided the War Eagles to a 68-50 record across 11 seasons, is the program's all-time leader in wins. South reached the playoffs eight times under Arnette, who also led South to a pair of region championships and an appearance in the Class 6A quarterfinals in 2015.
"You never know for sure if it's the right time," Arnette said. "It's been 30 good years, and my last 11 at South have been the most incredible experience. I love the administration, my coaches and my players — they're just the greatest people in the world. That's been the hardest part. I believe it's the right decision to step back. I even told the kids that I just need to step back and breathe and take a little time for myself. That's kind of what I told the guys, but you don't ever know exactly what to do and when to do it, to be honest with you."
South finished 5-4 this season, falling to Norcross 47-20 in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs. South's playoff appearance is its seventh straight, which is the longest in the county.
South is 49-28 across the past seven years, highlighted by an 11-2 season in 2015.
"He's had an impact on his football players, not just as football players but as young men," South Forsyth athletic director Keith Gravitt said. "I don't think you can measure that in any shape, form or fashion. Just the overall spirit of our school as well. I think he's had an impact on that with the way he's carried himself, handled his program and being part of our community here at South Forsyth High School."
Arnette spent two seasons at Oconee County from 2000-01 and four more at Elbert County from 2002-05 before replacing Wendell Early at South in 2010.
He owns a 113-74-1 record over 17 seasons as a head coach.
"I feel like I'm personally speaking not just for South Forsyth High School but for Forsyth County football as a whole. I think we've all seen the level of football in our county rise since he came to South Forsyth High School over the last 11 years," Gravitt said. "I'm not saying he's personally responsible for every school's record, or how they play, but I do think his arrival at South Forsyth High School is definitely sort of a marking place for what's gone on in our county since then."
Arnette informed the administration and his players of the decision Monday morning. He isn't ruling out a return to coaching, though he admitted an immediate return is unlikely.
"Well, I've had a lot of people call me already, and in four or five months I may feel like I've made a dumb decision and want to get back in it," Arnette said. "Some of my friends say, 'Why didn't I do it sooner?' So, I would never say that I was never going to coach again — I don't want to say that. But that's definitely not what I'm looking for right now, especially a head coaching job. Hopefully I can just take some time to breathe."
Arnette said the decision to step down wasn't particularly on his mind entering the 2020 season.
"Well, to be honest with you, if you've been coaching as much as I have, you get to every season and you sit back and reflect and evaluate what's the next year for you," Arnette said. "I've done that for several years, just sit back at the end of the year and evaluate, because you know it's getting close. It just felt like this was the time. As hard as it's been, I just felt like it was the time to just step back and take a breath and spend some time with my family a little more. I don't know that I had it on my radar going into this year any more than I did the previous three, four or five either, you know what I mean?"
Gravitt said the school's administration started the hiring process Monday morning and hopes to bring in a new coach before the end of the calendar year.
"Our goal would be to have this wrapped up before the Christmas break," Gravitt said. "We've already posted the job today on multiple sites and informed the appropriate people inside the school system. We look forward to expediting the process as much as possible."
"We think it's very important to the players and the program to not be waiting around and wondering who their coach is going to be."
This story has been updated.