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Clevenger advances the game as KFCA president

For the last two years, Danville football coach Clay Clevenger has also been the president of the Kentucky Football Coaches Association. In that time, he has presided and spearheaded some big advancements for the high school game in the state.

“You can do as much as you want or as little as you want. Jimmie (Reed, executive director) is the driving force and president can be a figure head if you want it,” Clevenger said. “Not to pat my own back, but I feel like we’ve been able to get some proactive stuff done over the last two years. Moving forward, I hope it helps not just the association but the game of high school football in the state.”

Perhaps most notable is the creation of the KFCA Mr. Football Trophy that was presented to Covington Catholic’s Michael Mayer this past year.

That award isn’t to be confused with the Associated Press’ award of the same name, but Clevenger had the idea for the Coaches Association trophy in 2017 after his player, Dmauriae VanCleave won the AP’s award.

“Football coaches weren’t really happy with the fact that it came out in February and everyone had kind of shifted gears to basketball season,” Clevenger said. “We wanted to bring a little more bite to it and have something that was a tangible trophy.”

He said that it was an “eye opening experience” that there wasn’t a physical trophy for the AP’s Mr. Football and he wanted to make the KFCA award special. That’s why he and Reed went up to present a trophy to the CovCath tight end when he won the second annual award.

“Clay came to me and said we need to do something to get our own Mr. Football and name him right after the season,” Reed said. “It was his idea that got the ball rolling.”

While Reed has been with the KFCA since it began in 1992, he said he’s never worked with a president like Clevenger.

“Clay has been very aggressive in moving our organization forward,” he said. “(He’s) got some great ideas… He was a joy to work with. He was on top of everything. He was devoted to making the Coaches Association better from the time he took over til the time he’s gotten out and he has done that.”

Clevenger first got involved with the KFCA as a regional rep in charge of Class 2A districts 1-4 and in that role, he was so impressive that the board brought him on as president in March of 2018. 

“He served the presidency — as we moved forward — for a two year term instead of the normal one year term because he had so many great ideas,” Reed said. “I wanted him to stay on board and move forward like he wanted us to. We’ve never had anyone serve two years before.

“Clay’s really humble. He’s not going to pat himself on the back,” Reed added. “He’s one of those guys who’s going to get behind the scenes and get things done but doesn’t want any credit before.”

Beyond growing the game of football in the state through the expanded voting in players of the year and the creation of the Mr. Football award, Clevenger has also committed himself to growing the organizational membership.

“Some of the goals I’ve had as president was to put some life back into the association. I wanted to bring in more younger coaches,” he said. “I’m at the middle part of my career and coaches 10-15 years ago met every Saturday morning to trade film and have a cup of coffee and talk. Now with all the technology you just put push a button and it’s sent. So you lose some of that cohesion with your fellow coaches. You don’t talk to them as much.”

One of the means to that end was the partnership with the University of Kentucky and the coaches clinic that they hold at UK in March.

Another way he’s increasing membership is the improved hospitality room for member coaches at the state championship games.

“The first event that we had was the hospitality room at the championship games at the old Cardinal Stadium,” Reed said, talking about the organization’s humble beginnings. “It was really cold and we had a real small room with hot dogs and soft drinks. We’ve grown a lot since then and have given out a lot more awards for the players and coaches in our state. We have district players and coaches of the year.”

For Clay, his involvement with the organization means more than just the title. It’s a continuation of a Danville tradition.

“The cool thing is Coach (Sam) Harp, when he was coaching here at Danville, he helped organize it and get it started,” Clevenger said. “So being the president for the last couple of years has been cool in that regard as well.”

But that Danville tradition is just as important on the field. And, as Reed notes, Clevenger has been able to balance his role in the organization while keeping a strong Admiral team.

“The majority of work done for our Coaches Association is in the fall and that’s the football coach’s busiest time,” he said. “Clay has a great football program going on at Danville High School and has great tradition. He does a great job of working with the administration to continue having that program as one of the top programs in the state.”

Clevenger believes that his leadership role has actually made him a better coach than he was. He points to an example from last year as to why he believes that.

In the offseason, he led the charge against the proposed playoff format change the KHSAA ultimately went with.

“You spend a lot of time last spring getting data together that shows you should be moving in a different direction with those playoffs and you didn’t win,” he said. “Well, what do you now? You’ve got to accept it and move on and make the best of it.

“Anytime you’re dealing with a lot of different opinions, they might not be like yours,” he added. “There’s coaches who might feel the exact opposite of me in regards to the playoff format but you still have to respect their opinion and hear their voice. I think that’s important in a leadership role — hearing those voices and concerns and not casting it aside.”

Clevenger’s term as president will end after the UK coaches clinic at the end of March. After that, Mercer’s David Buchanan will take over. But Clevenger can leave knowing that he’s left the association better than he found it.