Phelps resigns as Cardinals head football coach

Veteran multi-sport teacher/coach will stay on as St. Michael's assistant athletic director


FAIRHOPE, Ala. -- Coach Scott Phelps, founding head football coach at St. Michael Catholic High School, resigned on Monday. The decision was announced online via St. Michael Catholic High Cardinals News ( on March 30. He retains his position on the faculty and will transition to assistant athletic director for the 2020-21 school year.

“My wife and I think this is the right time,“ Phelps says. “I’ve been coaching for 38 years now, and our youngest son is graduating from St. Michael next month. The freshman (class) I coached in our first year here will graduate in May. Our spring season has been canceled due to the coronavirus—put that all together, and we just think this is the best time to make the transition.”

Phelps met with St. Michael’s principal Faustin Weber on Friday and offered his resignation. In a follow-up meeting on Monday, Weber asked Phelps to become SMCHS’ assistant athletic director. Phelps told his assistant coaches about the changes Monday evening and then met with his team via video-conference.

St. Michael athletic director Paul Knapstein said Phelps is handing off a strong foundation for success on and off the field.

“I will be eternally grateful to Coach Phelps for starting our football program,” Knapstein said. “His work ethic was a positive example to our young men. Coach Phelps took a group of young, inexperienced first-time football players and in four short years made them a competitive group on the field. 

“The level of improvement from year to year our team showed was simply incredible. Coach Phelps has put our team in a position to succeed in the future.”

Weber said Phelps contributions went beyond the gridiron.

“Coach Phelps didn’t just begin football here,” he said. “In a very real way, he is a co-founder of our athletic program. He was the only P.E. teacher in our first year, our only football coach on staff, our only weight coach, our first baseball coach, our only bus driver.

"With just 99 students in the school, less than half of whom were boys, he started football, with 13 eligible players and five other kids who were ineligible for 18 months because they transferred. We began with no field to practice on, no equipment, no schedule, no traditions. He’s been a strong Christian role model to our young men— a ‘guy’s guy.’

"I am pleased he has accepted my offer to stay here and assist our athletic director Paul Knapstein. Our program has grown very large since 2016—we now have over 20 varsity programs, with additional J.V. and middle school teams."

St. Michael will begin the search for Coach Phelps’ replacement immediately. Interested coaches should send a cover letter and resume to SMCHS athletic director Paul Knapstein at PKnapstein@stmichaelchs.

As the original 13 players progressed, the Cardinals football team posted three wins in the 21 varsity games Phelps led. The 2019 team defeated county rival and fellow new program Elberta as well as perennially strong, though small McIntosh for the gridiron Cardinals’ first multi-win season. St. Michael’s competed in the AHSAA’s Class 3A division in 2018 and last year but will move up to Class 4A this fall.

In his years as a head coach in Alabama. Phelps went 103-46 in 12 years at Leroy where he led the Bears to the AHSAA Class 2A state title in 2004 and won six region championships. At Robertsdale, he and the Golden Bears went 13-47 in six seasons in one of the toughest regions in the state year-in-year out: Class 6A, Region 2.

The early days at St. Michael’s were spartan. The team, which was without its own weight room or practice field held their weight training at the YMCA in Daphne and outdoor workouts at Al Trione Park down the street. The situation didn’t deter some.

Sophomores Jacob Domning and Michael Brown transferred from McGill-Toolen Catholic, breaking long-standing family traditions.

"I wanted to play because I liked the idea of being the first team and setting the foundation," Domning said.

Brown, who also played basketball for the school, said he couldn't pass up the opportunity to start a new tradition. 

"I just wanted to be part of the first graduating class,” he said. “And to help build a football and basketball program."

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