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Tennessee high school coach stuns with immediate exit for pro job

The head coach of South Pittsburg High School has bolted the school after coaching just one game for a return to the professional ranks.
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South Pittsburg (Tennessee) is among the most storied, tradition-rich football programs in the Volunteer State.

The school has won five Class A championships and 12 other times finished as runners-up.

Still, it seemed perhaps a bit of an odd fit when the program earlier this year hired Chris Jones – a guy with a background as a former Canadian Football League head coach – to run the Pirates' program. Despite his roots in the area, Jones has spent almost three decades coaching at the college and pro levels and had minimal experience at the high school ranks.

On Monday, the South Pittsburg program – and the tight-knit community of just 3,000 residents tucked near the Tennessee-Alabama line in Southeast Tennessee – learned that Jones was departing the school immediately for a return opportunity to the CFL.

Jones has been named the Toronto Argonauts' defensive coordinator, after that organization had just placed two coaches – including then-coordinator Glen Young – on personal leave.

Jones' exit was first reported by the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Stephen Hargis and the CFL Web site, 3downnation.com.

"A position came open in professional football,” Jones told the TFP, “and I was offered the job over the weekend. I haven't slept hardly since that offer came. It's a position that I felt like I couldn't turn down, because it's what's best for my family.

"Telling the kids was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I feel like throwing up. I know people will say what they want about me because of the timing, but the people who know me know how much I care about this program. There were just a lot of things that added up and led to this decision."

Jones, a South Pittsburg graduate who called the Pirates' head job his “dream job” upon his hiring just five months ago, ultimately coached just one game atop the program, a 35-7 season-opening win. COVID-19 issues have kept the Pirates sidetracked since that opening game.

Jones heads to an Argonauts franchise that is 3-2 on the season and still has nine games remaining in its regular season.