In a major shift for St. Cloud, Head Football Coach Bryan Smart resigned his post on Thursday to become the school’s next athletic director. The move came several weeks after AD Eric Godfrey stepped down to assume another leadership position at the school.
“There were a ton of considerations, both pro and con for stepping down as football coach and pursuing this opportunity. From a professional standpoint, it was an opportunity to make an impact on the entire athletic program at St. Cloud and not just the football team,” Smart said. “From a personal standpoint, I have an 11-year-old son who is starting to get into youth sports. This move will allow me to spend more time coaching and working with him. On the negative side, I am going to miss football and working with my players. Friday night football is so special and it’s hard to walk away.”
Smart came to St. Cloud from his native New Jersey 11 years ago when he accepted a teaching and assistant football coaching position. He was named head coach in 2013 and compiled a 47-42 record in nine years – recording five winning seasons and two years with seven or more wins.
His St. Cloud team’s record 7-3 records in both 2020 and 2015 and went 7-4 in 2015. Hit heavily with graduation losses and serious season-ending injuries to several key players, his 2021 team was decimated before the season began and scored just 16 points in their first five games. But the Bulldogs rallied back to win two of their last four – including a 31-30 upset over heavily-favored Harmony in the season-finale. “It’s hard say a win that came during a 3-6 season was a career highlight,” Smart said. “But that was such a special night. Our kids just fought their heart out against a great team and got a win they needed and deserved. It’s something I know I will never forget.”
Smart said he decided to apply for the athletics director job a few days after Godfrey’s surprise announcement to step down. “I think our entire athletic department was shocked when Eric said he was leaving the post,” Smart said. “He was such an incredible leader and resource for all of our coaches.”
Godfrey, who spent six years as Athletic Director, served on the committee to select his replacement and is convinced Smart was the right man for the job. “Nobody cares more about and has more passion for St. Cloud High School than Bryan Smart,” Godfrey said. “We had some real quality applicants but Bryan just wowed the committee with his enthusiasm. He not only relayed that passion to the committee but came in with a specific plan of what he wants to accomplish.”
Smart officially starts his duties on June 1.
In the meantime, St. Cloud has named assistant football coach Mike Short as interim head coach and Godfrey added they would post the job next week and try to have permanent head coach in place in time for spring football. Short is expected to apply for the job and former asst. coach Brandon Pennington also expressed an interest. “We certainly intend on following protocols and intend to interview interested, qualified candidates,” Godfrey noted.
In his six years as athletics director, Godfrey has seen some major accomplishments by several St. Cloud teams and athletes. In the past year, his golf teams both captured OBC Championships; with the girls’ team making it to states and star Morgan Beaulieu finishing tied for fourth in the 3A Championship. The St. Cloud girls’ basketball team won both district and an OBC titles and made it to a regional final; while the girls’ weight lifting team won a regional championship. Four times in the last five years, St. Cloud won the OBC Academic Team Championship for the highest cumulative GPA among all athletes combined.
“We’ve had a lot of great moments and I am so proud of the culture we have built here at St. Cloud. Our coaches want to win, but more importantly they care more about the student-athlete. I am most proud of the academic achievements of our student-athletes and how so many have gone on to college and successful professional careers,” Godfrey said.