Collinsville's Ernie Willingham.

Former Collinsville football head coach Ernie Willingham is set to rejoin the school’s football program as its interim head coach.

Pending DeKalb County Board of Education approval, Willingham will return to Collinsville High School and serve in multiple capacities during the 2021-22 academic year, according to a social media post on the school’s social media accounts Monday evening.

In addition to his interim head coaching duty with Collinsville’s football team, Willingham will also be the next head coach of the school’s baseball program.

“This late in the summer, finding a new football coach is a definite challenge,” Collinsville Principal Bradley Crawford said in a statement from the school’s Facebook account. “Our goal was to identify the best head coach possible for the moment we find ourselves in and we are very fortunate to have someone with experience like coach Willingham in our community willing to serve.

“Looking long-term at our baseball program, we sought someone with previous baseball coaching experience and a strong grasp of the game. We are excited about the student-athletes we have coming through the program and we feel like coach Willingham is the right person to maximize the talent we have in our program.”

Willingham previously led Collinsville’s football program from 1998-2002 and again from 2013-19. In his two stints at Collinsville, Willingham won 80 games with nine playoff appearances and compiled a career coaching record of 131-84.

Willingham accepted his first football head coaching job at Collinsville in 1998. His teams went 31-24 over the next five seasons, reaching the postseason all but 2002, all according to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society’s website.

In 2003, Willingham returned to Appalachian and served as a head basketball coach, before directing the football program in 2004. He spent seven seasons leading the football team. His Appalachian teams finished with a combined 51-30 record with each qualifying for the state playoffs.

After three years away from coaching, Willingham returned to Collinsville in 2013, where he spent seven additional seasons at the helm of the football program.

Willingham guided Collinsville to the AHSAA Class 2A state semifinal round in the 2019 season, where the Panthers fell to eventual-state champion Fyffe.

According to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society’s website, Willingham’s Collinsville teams went 80-54 across 12 seasons.

Willingham retired from Collinsville in 2020, following the end of the school system’s academic year.

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