Center ISD set to hire new athletic director/head football coach

North Texas media outlets report Scott Ponder has tentatively accepted the job
For details on ex-Athletic Director/Head Football Coach Barry Bowman's separation agreement, which includes a paycheck for long after his departure, please see this week's The Light and Champion newspaper print edition.

A coach who once called Tenaha home is set to take over the Center ISD athletic department as the district's new athletic director and head football coach, according to several North Texas media outlets whose coverage includes the Bells ISD Panthers.

Center ISD Superintendent Dr. James Hockenberry would not confirm the decision to hire Ponder after about a three-and-one-hour executive session of the Center ISD Board of Trustees Monday night. Hockenberry said the board had interviews Monday with the two finalists for the position.

Ponder has been the AD and head football coach for the Bells Panthers for the past five years, according to reports from the Sherman Herald Democrat, the Wichita Falls Times Record and Sherman television station KXII.

The Center ISD board of trustees has a regular meeting scheduled for 12 p.m. Thursday where both a closed executive session and open session allow for employment of personnel.

“I do expect a decision to be made on Thursday to employ a new AD/Head Football Coach,” Hockenberry said.

Bells is located between Sherman and Bonham north of the Dallas metro area.

KXII reported "the Bells Panthers are now on the market for a new head football coach. After five seasons in Bells, with a 32-24, Scott Ponder is leaving Bells for a head coaching position at Center High School.”

Ponder reportedly led the Panthers to the post season in all years at the helm, including a playoff win in 2014, his first season, the paper reported.

The Herald Democrat said Bells went 4-7 this past fall as it moved up to Class 3A Division II in the latest realignment. The Panthers were fourth in the District 9-3A (II) standings and lost in the bi-district round to Big Sandy Harmony.

The Center ISD school board is expected to make the hiring official in a meeting at noon on Thursday after interviewing the candidates on Monday night and Ponder accepting the school’s offer, the Herald Democrat said. The move also puts Ponder, who grew up in Tenaha, closer to his mother, the newspaper said.

On Dec. 10 Bowman was placed on administrative leave and also tendered his resignation, according to Center ISD documents. His resignation is effective June 30, 2019, according to a separation agreement he has with the district. Bowman had his best season in Center in his first year with a 10-3 record in 2015, which was the first 10-win season by the Roughriders since 1952. Center went 6-5 the following year and then went 3-8 in 2017.

The Times Record reported Ponder was a title-winning coach at Petrolia in 2002 and spent the next 11 years at Rider and Iowa Park – seven with the Raiders and four with the Hawks. The Midwestern State alum took his first head coaching job outside the area in 2014 when he left Wichita County for Bells.

“Ponder, who owns a career coaching record of 127-86, said he was excited for the opportunity” in Center, The Times Record reported.