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Saturday January 22nd, 2022 12:32AM

Football: Gainesville set to hire seven-time state champion coach Josh Niblett

By Bo Wilson Sports Editor

GAINESVILLE — When you talk about coaching hire splashes, this one is a tidal wave. 

Seven-time state championship, and now-former Hoover, Ala. head coach, Josh Niblett, will be roaming the sidelines at City Park next season as he's set to become the next head football coach at Gainesville High School. 

Hoover athletic director Andy Urban confirmed to AL.com that Niblett will be retiring. Gainesville is set to announce the hiring at a press conference at 9 a.m. Monday.

Although Gainesville athletic director Adam Lindsey would not confirm or deny the hiring, he said everyone is welcome to come to meet the new coach on Monday.

"We will be announcing the new head football coach for the third-winningest program in the state of Georgia on Monday morning at 9 a.m. in the GHS cafeteria," Gainesville athletic director Adam Lindsey said.

Niblett is one of the most recent winningest coaches in Alabama high school football history. Since 2008, Niblett has gone 171-26 at Hoover, including six state championships and advanced to the semifinals of the playoffs every season. 

According to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society, Hoover finished the 2021 regular season undefeated, including a 24-21 win over then-No. 1 Thompson. But the Bucs fell to the same Thompson team in the Class 7A semifinals, 35-10.

The hire comes after Gainesville and former coach Heath Webb parted ways in November. Webb was 18-24 in four seasons at Gainesville with three first-round playoff appearances. The Red Elephants didn't make the playoffs for the first time since 1999 this season, going 5-5 and finishing sixth in the Region 6-7A standings.

Gainesville, with an overall 758-351-25 record in more than 100 years of playing, has had its time in the spotlight over the years. Bobby Gruhn, considered the most successful coach in program history, despite not winning a state title, posted a 254-104 record, won 16 region titles, went to seven semifinals and four finals in 30 seasons as head coach.

But after Gruhn left, the program went through some lean times only making the state playoffs twice before Bruce Miller took over in 2002. Immediately, Miller made an impact on the program guiding Big Red to not just the playoffs but to the Class 3A semifinals in his first season at the helm. Miller set the program ablaze and began the impressive 20-year playoff streak, but it wasn't just any old streak. During his time, Miller coached the likes of Deshaun Watson (Clemson, Houston Texans), AJ Johnson (Tennesse, Denver Broncos), Blake Sims (Alabama, Tampa Bay, Atlanta) and Kendrick Lewis (Kansas City). Miller won 157 games in 16 seasons, including eight region championships, four semifinal appearances, two finals trips and the 2012 Class 5A state championship.

Based on Niblett's coaching resume, Gainesville has found its next Gruhn or Miller to lead the Red Elephants back to relevance.

Niblett began his career after Rush Propst was forced to step down. Before Niblett's arrival, Propst had led the Bucs to five state titles. Niblett continued the dominance over the next 14 seasons, including three straight titles from 2012-14, nine finals appearances and a total of six state titles in all. 

Before his time at Hoover, Niblett was head coach at Oxford (Ala.) for three years (2005-07) and Oneonta (Oh-nee-ON-ta) for five years (2000-2004) and led Oneonta to the Class 3A championship game twice, winning it all in 2004. 

Niblett played under Gene Stallings at Alabama from 1993-95. 

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