‘Old School’ Football Coach Meets With Brandon High Players, Parents

Dean Eychner, formerly of Hillsborough High, takes over as head football coach for the Brandon High School Eagles. Brandon, his hometown, is “rooted in tradition,” he tells parents and players meeting in the high school’s cafeteria.


's newly named football coach can be summed up in two words: "Old school."

That's the message he brought to parents and players at an informal meeting in the cafeteria of the town's first standalone high school, where he talked as well about the first steps taken to renovate the field house he found in "unacceptable condition."

But if you're looking for one more word to describe Dean Eychner, who after 16 years at Hillsborough High, as an assistant coach to Earl Garcia, is , that would be: "Tradition."

"I've lived in Brandon since 1990," Eychner said at the March 30 meeting, in the same room that sports photographs of alumni named to the Brandon High School Alumni Association's Hall of Fame. "This is my home. It's not that I just picked up and came here. This community means something to me."

"The people, the community," he added, "are rooted in tradition."

With 27 years of coaching experience, Eychner said he isn't taking lightly the job he has to do, with his coaching staff, to win the hearts and minds of his players, their parents, the school and the larger community.

"They're not sure about us and we're still learning about them," Eychner told the parents about their ball players. "We're going to do the right things for the right reasons and bring the best effort out of everyone."

That means some good old-fashioned, old-school thinking, which Eychner summed up as follows:

"We're not going be a trash-talking group," he said.

"We're not going to wear a different uniform. Until we can do something with Adidas or Nike, look to buy black shoes. I don't want to see yellow, black or green or something that doesn't reflect our school colors." (Brandon Eagles, as the saying goes, "bleeds maroon and white," with black thrown in as a third school color.)

"We want to look the same," Eychner added. Not allowed: wearing tape on your arm with hand-written messages. "You're going to tuck your shirts in, be resepectful, run on and off the field and learn about, 'Yes, m'am,' and 'Yes, sir.' We get that right, we're going to move on to some other things."

As for the field house, which sits behind the bleachers, "we did what we had to do when we got here," he said. "We had to do something with that facility down there, to me it was unacceptable."

Painting, carpeting, knocking down some walls, he added, that's just a start.

"If we're going to do this the right way, if we're going to sell our program to college recruiters, we have to have a place we can bring them into that reflects the mission of our program," Eychner said. "Looking at it the way it was, we're not going to sell anybody."

Eychner said he wants from parents and the community one thing above all else: "Show up,” he said. “And I'd like you to talk up Brandon football."

"Your boys are in the hands of good people," he added. "We have their best interests in mind and we're going to do what we can do to bring out the best in them. We just need you to believe in the boys and to believe in what we're trying to accomplish."

"We want you to see some results, too,” Eychner said. "We're not going to let you down."

Fielding questions from parents, Eychner was asked to explain his contention that football camps are "not worth the investment."

"How will seniors get rated if they don't go to camp?" a parent asked.

"If they can play football they'll get found," Eychner said. "If a kid can play, colleges know about it."

But, added another parent, "Brandon's been off the radar for awhile."

Answered Eychner: "You'd be surprised at the network we'll have in place. All I can say is, trust me."

Parents interviewed after the meeting said they are ready to stand behind Eychner and his coaching staff, as they did with John Lima, the former coach, who was not asked to return for another season.

Lima was one of in the Hillsborough County School District asked to resign at the conclusion of post-season play. Along with Lima, coaches left at Blake, Chamberlain, Freedom, Lennard, Riverveiw and Strawberry Crest high schools.

Brandon parents, including Football Club leaders Lori Jones and Cheryl Stanbro, gave Lima, a two-time Coach of the Year honoree, high marks for his "" with the players. Lima led the team to the playoffs four out of the six years he was with the Eagles.

"We loved John but we support the team and our sons," Stanbro said. "We were never going to be renegades to the new coach. Never, ever. We've been supporting him since he came here. We've offered our services just as we did for John."

Jones agreed.

"We're here to support the team and our sons,” she said.

As for helping the new coach with his plans for the old field house, Jones added: "We've already thrown away two dumpsters of stuff."

Added Stanbro: "We've put a ding in it, not even a dent, and now whatever he's doing with it, I'm glad he's doing it."

As for the players, quarterback Garrett Stanbro acknowledged, "you're always kind of nervous when a new guy's coming in."

"But I had faith in our administration that they'd hire somebody good," he added. "You expected good, you knew he'd be good, we got great. We got the best available."


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