Departing Karen leaves behind questions, Payne at HHH

info@islandpacket.comJune 4, 2012 

In an announcement that felt more like it was the introduction than the conclusion of the story, Hilton Head Island High School athletics director Mark Karen resigned Thursday.

Karen's resignation came nine days after his resignation. Huh?

Exactly.

The Hilton Head High AD job was posted by the Beaufort County School District on its website May 23 after, according to Karen, he turned in his resignation the day before.

But for more than a week, Karen stayed on the job while deciding his future, and Hilton Head High principal Amanda O'Nan said, despite the posting, the job wasn't open.

O'Nan said she was just covering her bases in case he decided to leave, and until Thursday morning, Karen's decision wasn't final.

When it became final, Karen didn't give any specific reasons for leaving, except to say, "It's not on the school level."

Whatever Karen's reasons are and whether we ever learn them or not, they must be significant. The Hilton Head High athletics director job is not the kind you leave behind if you don't have to.

Take a look at the numbers.

In the 2011-12 academic year, the Seahawks made the playoffs or the state tournament in 19 of the 20 varsity sports in which they compete.

It's safe to say there aren't many high schools in South Carolina that can claim a success rate so high.

And we're not talking about one-and-done teams, either.

The Seahawks took state titles in girls swimming, girls tennis, girls soccer and boys cross country. They were runners-up in boys soccer and girls cross country. They finished third in boys track and field, fourth in boys golf and fifth in girls golf.

TheSeahawks are expected to win their second consecutive Class 3-A S.C. Athletic Administrators Association Directors Cup Award, which is awarded to the state's best all-around athletics program.

Factor in the location, community and quality of the school and the Hilton Head High job seems like a destination rather than a stopover.

So how do you judge Karen's brief tenure at the helm of the Seahawks athletic program?

He didn't do anything to make all those teams into winners. Many already had a winning tradition before Karen crossed the bridge from Bluffton for the first time.

So what's his legacy?

The answer, quite simply, is B.J. Payne.

After former head football coach Tim Singleton and the Seahawks were cited for violating S.C. High School League eligibility rules and the nonprofit mentoring group he operated out of the school folded in the wake of controversy about its finances and governance, Karen played a part in firing Singleton and spearheaded the hiring of his replacement, Payne.

A former Division III defensive standout, professional wrestler and successful head football coach in Ohio, Payne won't coach his first game for the Seahawks until months after Karen is gone.

But it's inevitable. How many view Mark Karen's brief time on the Island will be forever linked to Payne's success on the sideline.

For the record, I think Karen will come out looking just fine.

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