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HEBRON ESTATES - After more than 30 years with a single athletic director who was also an assistant principal, North Bullitt has joined the other two Bullitt County high schools in splitting those duties.
After the retirement of long-time athletic director Rob Williams earlier this summer, North Bullitt principal Tracy Lamb saw how it was working at Bullitt East and Bullitt Central, and the every increasing workload for the position, and decided it was time for a change.
With that, she looked to her own coaching ranks and selected long-time coach Bill Robinette to lead the department with a major assist from boys’ basketball coach Lee Barger. While it may not work exactly to the numbers, Robinette has taken over 60 percent of the responsibilities while Barger will handle 40 percent. Robinette will handle the school’s vote on KHSAA issues.
The new North Bullitt look is much like what Bullitt East has been doing the past couple of years with Bob Blackburn and Troy Barr heading the Charger athletic department.
Because Robinette will continue to be an assistant football coach, Barger will handle many of the responsibilities with the fall sports. Robinette recently stepped down after nine years heading up the girls’ basketball program so he will handle the winter events while Barger continues to coach boys’ basketball.
“Basically, the responsibilities are split,” Robinette said in the same office he now has with the other school administrators. “I’ll do the organizational stuff and Lee will do the public relations. I’ll do winter and spring and he has the fall sports. But we’ll help each other out.”
Robinette will remain as a teacher for part of the day in the business department, but he does oversee the Co-Op program (like Blackburn does at Bullitt East) as well as having a free period at the end of the day. So, he won’t have classroom responsibilities after 12:30 p.m.
Robinette has been either a head coach or an assistant coach for just about every sport at North Bullitt at one time or another. He has led both girls’ basketball and girls’ golf as well as being the head baseball coach in the early 90s. He has also helped with track and football.
When Williams announced that he would retire in the spring, the title of athletic director was interesting to Robinette if Lamb opted to remove it from an assistant principal’s role.
“It’s something I’ve always thought would be nice to try,” Robinette said as he looks at the final few years before he retires. “It works out well that I get to share the work with someone like Lee who works hard and is excited. It’s a new challenge.”
When he started teaching, Robinette’s goal was to be a head football coach. That never materialized, but there was never a shortage of coaching opportunities.
“I always wanted to coach,” he said. “When I got out of college, my plan was to be a head coach in football, the one sport where I haven’t done that.”
As the head of the athletic department, Robinette will no longer be in charge of winning games. He will now be the one who leads the fund-raising efforts to make sure each sport has an opportunity to win contests.
“That’s one thing I have is all the financial part of the program with the fund-raising and booster clubs and how they operate,” Robinette explained. “I think we have to organize some things differently in fund-raising. We have multiple booster clubs at this point. I have stressed to them that we have to work together more. That’s a priority for us right now.”
The days are long gone where football and basketball revenue can support an athletic department.
“It’s a challenge for all of our sports,” the new AD said. “Each sport has to support themselves. That is why we have to work together and not against each other. I’ve met with some of the booster clubs already and told them what will have to change.
“If we’re going to be successful we going to demand that they support the program and not just each team,” Robinette added. “People seem to understand that now.”
Barger is a Bullitt Central graduate who has found a home at North Bullitt. He is working to one-day become an administrator, but at this point wants to stay in a more hands-on position. He has plenty of ideas on how to accomplish that.
“I think Lee has some different promotional ideas for building student support for our programs,” Robinette said. “We also want different people and companies involved and we’ll have different promotions for games throughout the year.”
Having the two coaches and teachers serve as the heads of the athletic department should make them more accessible to the coaches during the school day, something that wasn’t always available if the assistant principal had a discipline issue to handle or a meeting to attend.
“Just a month into the job and I can see why so many schools have turned this into a full-time position,” Robinette said as he worked on updating some schedules while also being interviewed.
Robinette said that he would like to see North Bullitt increase its athletic offerings. Wrestling would be on that list and Robinette also said that he will push hard with the KHSAA to add bowling to that groups’ sanctioned sports. North Bullitt won the girls’ state bowling championship this past school year, but the sport does not have KHSAA backing at this point. He also mentioned that there has been some interest in starting a lacrosse program.
Of course, one of Robinette’s top jobs is to keep North Bullitt in compliance with any Title IX rules, the ones that state that the school must provide equal opportunity to both boys and girls.
The first few weeks have been a challenge and the school year hasn’t even started yet.
“It’s been extremely time consuming,” Robinette said. “I’ve had to come in almost every day. Both Rob Williams and Bob Blackburn warned me it would be this way. You can expect the unexpected every day.”