In 17 years as a head football coach, Joe Fowler has seen a little bit of everything. He’s also gotten to bear witness to one of the state’s most respected athletic directors, longtime Goochland AD Bryan Gordon, the Bulldogs’ athletic director since 1993 who is retiring at the end of this school year.
“The biggest thing is how much of a servant type leader that he is,” Fowler said. “I don’t think a lot of our coaches and players and people in our community realize the little things he’s doing that they take for granted.”
Now Fowler will step into Gordon’s role as the school’s new athletic director, ending a 17-year span at the helm of the Goochland football program, a tenure that included two state championships in 2006 and 2012. For his part, Gordon was enthusiastic about Fowler’s promotion — Fowler has served as Gordon’s assistant athletic director in addition to his teaching load.
“I believe Coach Fowler will do an outstanding job as the new activities director,” Gordon said. “He lives in the community and is aware of what Goochland County wants and needs. He has stepped in my place a couple of times when I had surgery and did any outstanding job.”
Despite that, seeing Fowler’s football coaching career coming to a close is bittersweet for Gordon.
“We coached together a few years as I was one of his assistant coaches in football and he was my assistant in baseball,” Gordon said. “ I really don’t want to see him leave football put he will find outstanding replacement and will help the new coach in any manner he can.”
Goochland will begin looking for a new head football coach immediately. Fowler went 148-59 as the Bulldogs’ head coach, posting nine double-digit win seasons, including the 14-0 run in 2006 that ended in the first state title and 13-1 and 12-1 marks the last two seasons. His Wing-T system has made the Bulldogs one of the most consistently strong programs in the state over the last 17 years.
“I’ve been the head coach for 17 years and we’ve done so many things,” Fowler said. “I’m just now getting to the point where I’m coaching the sons of former players. It just felt like it was the right move at the right time. I wanted to become an athletic director but I also didn’t want to leave Goochland High School.”
So he’s waited on Gordon’s retirement and Gordon announced that earlier this school year, giving Fowler a shot at the job. He’ll take over a department that has seen state-level success in football, softball, baseball, tennis and volleyball and has produced an impressive array of athletes who’ve been successful in college and at the professional level.
“I’m excited for the opportunity,” Fowler said. “There’s a little apprehension because of walking away from something you’ve done for a long time. But I’ve been paying attention for the last 20 years, and it’s reassuring knowing (Gordon will) be a mile away when I have questions.”
One of his first tasks will be helping hire his own replacement and that won’t be simple.
“It is (challenging) because I want to get it right because I care so much about our current group of players,” Fowler said. “They’re great players but they’re even better people. I want to make sure whoever we hire is there to take care of those kids.”
With his son in fourth grade too, it’ll make the hire more personal for Fowler too as his son will likely play for his successor but Fowler has always considered his players surrogate sons. Now he’ll get to put that personal stamp on the entire athletic department.