Arguably the most expedited high-level athletics hire in recent Horry County Schools memory is now in the rearview.
Jason Cox is already looking ahead.
“We have great facilities all around the state,” said Cox, who was approved as the district’s athletics director on Monday. “We’ve seen pictures and heard about them — turf fields and weight rooms where 100 kids can lift safely at one time. We need to progress where we’ve got the finest facilities in the state.”
Cox — who spent the last two years as Conway’s athletics director after previously serving in the same job at Green Sea Floyds — fills a job the district deemed unnecessary 11 years ago before approving it back into the annual budget late last month.
In between HCS board member Neil James proposing the re-activation on May 17 and Cox’s hire clearing the standard hurdles, the district required just five weeks to complete the entire process. That wasn’t much of a surprise given the relatively late timing in the academic calendar.
Even James said it was possible that Horry County Schools may have had a candidate or two in mind before it was formally posted to the district’s employment portal. It remained there for one week, during which time several sources indicated to MyHorryNews.com that Cox was a clear target.
In total, there were 29 total applicants, according to district spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier, and the other two announced finalists were West Orange (Florida) Athletics Director Jerry Shafer and Eugene Ashley (North Carolina) Athletics Director Kelly Lewis.
It was not immediately known how many interviews took place, but at the end of the short ride, Cox’s rapid rise up the area’s athletics scene continued. The 2001 Conway High graduate earned undergraduate and master’s degrees from Coastal Carolina University and then coached the baseball team at Green Sea Floyds until 2014, when he took over the Trojans’ athletics programs. He was in that role until the 2019-2020 year, when he was promoted to the same job at Conway.
Two years later, at 37 years of age, he’s moving up again.
“When I got into coaching, I had a great athletic director in Doug Hinson [at Green Sea Floyds],” he said. “Being around Coach [Chuck] Jordan when I was in school here at Conway, I always loved being around those guys and had an interest in what they did.
“Knowing how things operate in Horry County, I bring that to the table. I know the people who are making decisions. I think the relationships I have with those people can help those things along.”
In addition to facilities, Cox said he sees a time when all nine of the area’s high schools have more streamlined middle school programs, possibly including bigger staffs, that promote athletics at a younger age. Yet, he’s not immune to the immediacy of improving venues district-wide.
To a degree, the most visible portion of Horry County sports has seen a drastic improvement via a phased track project that is nearing its midway point, as well as the upgrades to various tennis courts.
Still, coaches for the shared use football/soccer/lacrosse fields have been clamoring for field turf as costs, maintenance and time needs have hamstrung coaches who see fields used and abused by varsity, sub-varsity and even middle school teams — all in an area prone to inclement weather and flooding. What’s more, districts around the state, including nearby Florence 1 Schools, have installed field turf at West Florence, South Florence and Wilson — schools that share regions with Grand Strand programs.
Cox said field turf is on his bucket list and those talks “need to be had.”
To date, those conversations have mostly fallen to Roger Dixon, who has been serving as the district’s athletics liaison in an at-will role after several stops at various schools in the district.
“I’ve been the one constant since the start of this with the projects,” Dixon said. “Personnel has changed and people have taken on different roles. But I’ve been the one person on this. From a facilities standpoint, I would like to stay on until we get these projects completed. That remains to be seen at this point.”
Administrators and coaches around the district have credited Dixon’s passionate advocacy for the track and tennis renovations. Now, they hope Cox will bring about the same effect on a bigger scale.
Meanwhile, his promotion to the district office will leave another hole that needs to be filled. Conway Principal Tanika McKissick did not immediately return messages Wednesday on how the school would proceed with its now-open athletics director job. Before Cox was hired, longtime district employee Marion Shaw initially stepped in on an interim basis that eventually lasted four years.
Likewise this time around, timing is not on the school’s side. The next academic calendar year begins July 1, meaning out-of-district employees may have a hard time getting out of their current contracts.
At least four Horry County employees have expressed interest in the position. The district also has resumes from the recent searches for the same position at North Myrtle Beach and Socastee. As of late Wednesday afternoon, the job had not been posted through the district’s web portal.