Tri-City Ledger -

By Joe Thomas
Ledger Editor 

Cotten was great motivator and friend

Former T.R. Miller coach, principal and council member left lasting memories


January 11, 2018


If you ask anybody who knew him, they would tell you that Frank Cotten was one of the greatest motivators they ever knew.

Cotten, 79, who served as the head football coach and principal at T.R. Miller High School and also served 28 years on the Brewton City Council, died Wednesday, Jan. 3.

Former players, coaches and friends said Cotten was one of a kind. They also said if Cotten could pull a joke on somebody, he would.

Former T.R. Miller coach Jim Hart said Cotten hired him and Donnie Rotch to come to T.R. Miller at the same time.

Hart was coaching at Sparta Academy in 1974 when T.R. Miller traveled to Evergreen to play basketball and Cotten asked Hart if he would like to go to the game. He went.

"At half time, Frank and Dale (Superintendentt Dale Garner) came over and asked if I wanted a job. Hart was hired at T.R. Miller to coach running backs and quarterbacks in football and also coach B-team basketball. Cotten was the head football coach and Guy Sawyer was the head basketball coach.

"He was something else," Hart said of Cotten. "In addition to being a great basketball and football coach, he was a great person."

"He was always looking to pull a prank on somebody," Hart said. "He was a prankster and you had to learn when he was serious."

He said while Cotten was trying to raise his own children he was also trying to raise him, Rotch and Sawyer at the same time.

Like others, Hart said Cotten could get the most out of kids whether he was a coach or principal.

"He could get the most out of some kids that really didn't have a lot of ability," Hart said. "But they believed in him. He was a great motivator and was able to convince kids they could do anything."

Hart said there were many times Cotten would lose his temper and fire him, Rotch and Sawyer during a game and hire them back the next day.

"I know Bill Pendergrass is up in Heaven laughing and waiting on Frank, but he's nervous at what Frank will pull when he gets there," Hart said.

"I'm going to miss him a lot," Hart said. "Everybody loved Frank."

Cotten graduated from Coffeville High School and graduated from Livingston University, where he played basketball and baseball. He received a master's degree in education administration from Troy State University.

He began his coaching career at Coffeville High School in 1960 and moved to Macon Academy in 1965. In 1966 he came to T.R. Miller as head basketball coach and assistant football coach. He served as the Tigers' head football coach from 1973 to 1980.

Cotten served as principal of Brewton Middle School in 1981, assistant principal at T.R. Miller from 1982 to 1984 and then served as principal from 1985 to 1996. Cotten also served 28 years on the Brewton City Council.

Former Miller head coach Jamie Riggs said Cotten was the head coach at Miller his senior year and also taught social studies. Riggs said Cotten coached and taught him all the way through middle school and high school.

"He made football fun," Riggs said. "He was pretty well beloved as an assistant. He did a great job inspiring people to play. Nobody could get an average guy to play over his head like Frank could."

Riggs said when he returned to T.R. Miller in 1989 as the head football coach, Cotten was his principal.

"It was pretty neat to come back to that situation," Riggs said. "It's amazing in a lot of ways. He was amazing in a lot of ways and was probably a better basketball coach than most people realized."

He said Cotten had a way with most people, including referees.

"Nobody could chew out an official like he could and never get a penalty," Riggs said. "Everybody just loved him."

David Stokes played football under Cotten his junior and senior years at Miller and also agreed that Cotten was a great motivator and could get players to do things they didn't know they could.

"He didn't have to tell you a lot, you could look into his eyes and know what he wanted you to do," Stokes said.

Stokes said during his senior year W.S. Neal had gotten inside the T.R. Miller 20-yard line late in the game with the Tigers leading 13-12.

Stokes said during a timeout he ran to the sidelines to ask Cotten what the team needed to do.

"He looked at me, turned and looked at the stands and when the referee blew the whistle he spit on the ground and told me 'hold 'em damnit'," Stokes said. "I went back to the huddle and they asked me what he said I just repeated 'hold 'em damnit'."

He said Neal lost 40 yards on the next four plays and Miller won the game.

Stokes said the friendship with Cotten continued after high school and they spent a lot of time hunting and playing golf with him.

"After student life our friendship didn't end," Stokes said. "He meant a lot to me and was a big part of my life. You don't normally tell your coaches that you love them, but he was one I did."

Tom Ogleetree said he saw many sides to Cotten and cherishes every one.

He said he and Cotten's son Robbie were friends growing up and during his freshman year Robbie and some other friends were trying out for the junior varsity basketball team.

"I wasn't any good, but I wanted to play and I made the team," Ogleetree said.

He said Cotten was the varsity coach at the time and he remembers the players had to purchase some Converse high-top tennis shoes. He said he and his mother saved up and got a pair of the shoes.

"I wore them everywhere," Ogleetree said. "I wore them to school, I wore them hunting and fishing and just about anywhere else."

He said the shoes got dirty and worn out, saying he didn't realize they were only supposed to be worn on the basketball court.

He said one day after practice Cotten handed him a pair of size 10 Converse high-tops that Cotten told him were left over from the varsity players.

"Never crossed my mind that he had the exact size I needed," Ogleetree said. "But he told me not to wear them anywhere but the basketball court."

Ogleetree said he was in college before he learned those new shoes weren't left over from the varsity, but that Cotten had paid for them himself.

"That's just the type of person he was," Ogleetree said. "I grew up without a dad and Coach Cotten and Jim Nordmeyer kind of took me in. I can remember Robbie and I would be heading to a game and Coach would give Robbie $5 and then turn around and give me $5."

But he said it wasn't just him that Cotten helped out.

"He helped a lot of people and some probably don't know it was Coach Cotten who helped them," Ogleetree said.

Like others, Ogleetree said Cotten was willing to cut up and make jokes, but he made it pretty clear what line not to cross.

"He touched so many lives," Ogleetree said. "I know he touched mine. He will be missed."


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