BRADENTON -- Why did Jason Montgomery want to become Manatee's new athletic director?
The better question, according to Montgomery, is why not.
"Like I told them during the interview, it's a rarity when you have an opportunity to look at a position with the track record and history Manatee has," he said. "Anyone would be foaming at the mouth to fill that position."
The 40-year-old Kentucky native got his wish when he was named the school's athletic director Thursday. Montgomery's start date is Feb. 18, said principal Don Sauer, adding the school hopes to get Montgomery in sometime next week so he can get set up with the Florida High School Athletic Association.
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Montgomery beat out about 35 applicants for the position, nine of whom were interviewed, Sauer said. Montgomery replaces head football coach Joe Kinnan, who announced his resignation as athletic director on Dec. 6.
Montgomery currently serves as an assistant women's basketball coach at Webber University and works at Florida Virtual School. But he previously served as athletic director at Sante Fe Catholic in Lakeland, where he was also the assistant principal, and Nature Coast Technical High School in Brooksville.
Montgomery also worked as the head softball coach, assistant women's basketball coach and athletic director at St. Catherine College in Kentucky, and has served as a head coach or assistant in some capacity for nearly 20 years.
Having lived in Florida for 10 years, Montgomery said he was well aware of Manatee's athletic tradition, especially with football program. And he is also aware of the recent turmoil surrounding the program, which includes alleged financial wrongdoings surrounding the baseball team and the investigation into former assistant football coach's Rod Frazier alleged inappropriate relationships with female students.
Superintendent Rick Mills recommended that Kinnan and former Manatee principal Robert Gagnon be disciplined for their alleged roles in the baseball probe, and the investigation was passed on.
Both Kinnan and Gagnon said they plan to fight the recommendation.
Montgomery had nothing to do with the transgressions, of course, and considers having no ties to anyone at Manatee an advantage.
"It's a clean slate. I don't have ties to anything that went on," he said. "That's an advantage I bring to the table. I'm going to look out for what's in the best interest of the school and coaches and athletes, and hopefully build on the tradition that is here."
Montgomery acknowledged it is a little different beginning a new administrative role in the middle of a school year, but is hopeful it allows him to get to know his coaches better.
"Everything's in place," he said. "The big advantage is I get to see everyone rather than the summer, when you're not really in contact with anyone.
"I'm extremely excited."
And he plans on learning Manatee as he goes.
"Until you get in there, I think it's crazy to sit and say, 'I want to change X, Y, Z,'" Montgomery said. "I want to get a chance to sit down and get to know all the coaches and see what the direction we can go in."