When Eric Bishop was an athlete at the University of North Carolina, he was taught the valuable lesson that eventually your career changes and something else opens up.
For the two-time NCAA high jump champion, that meant becoming a teacher and a coach after earning his degree in Chapel Hill. Now, it means changing roles again.
Bishop resigned last week from his positions at North Murray High as a physical education teacher, boys basketball coach and track and field coach to take a position with Whitfield County Schools. Bishop will use more of his bachelor’s degree in art and design to take a role in the county’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program in Whitfield’s five middle schools.
“I will be teaching a hybrid class on marketing design and entrepreneurship, to allow kids to more or less discover the different ways to start their own business with marketing,” Bishop said.
“I had always considered that I wouldn’t be coaching basketball forever. That was something that was good for a season of my life, but it was a good time for me to do something in my skill set.”
A 1994 Murray County High graduate, Bishop served as the athletic director and boys basketball coach at Gladden Middle before taking the jobs at North Murray when the school opened in 2009.
During this past season, the program’s third, North Murray made the state playoffs and finished with a 21-10 record after losing at Jefferson in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs.
As a Tar Heel, Bishop won the NCAA outdoor championship in the high jump in 1996 and the indoor championship the following year. He is the only man in UNC track and field history to win individual championships in both indoor and outdoor events, and in 2002 he was named to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s 50th Anniversary Men’s Track and Field Team. He also came close to qualifying for a spot in the 1996 Olympics.
Now, beyond his sports past as an athlete and coach, he is seeking a new challenge.
“This has been on the back burner for a long time, but it is something that I have wanted to pursue,” said Bishop, who will be teaching the six-week class on a rotation through all five middle schools.
While he doesn’t plan on coaching basketball in the near future, he said he has had some discussions with the administration at Coahulla Creek high about helping out with the Colts’ track and field program, but said nothing was certain as far as extracurriculars.
Bishop’s departure is the second head coaching change for North Murray in the past six months. This spring, football coach Larry Cornelius was fired and replaced by former Ringgold assistant coach David Gann.
“This came as quite a surprise to me,” North Murray Athletic Director Roger Rainey said Wednesday. “I know coach Bishop talked with Principal (Maria) Bradley, but I haven’t even talked with him yet. I was on vacation last week, and so far Dr. Bradley and I haven’t had a chance to sit down and talk about what we want to do.”
Rainey said North Murray would most likely look within the school system for Bishop’s replacement.
“I don’t think that we will be able to open it up because our schools system’s budget is so tight right now,” Rainey said. “With the economy and everything, it is tough. It is too early to say right now.”
One of the coaches hired and brought in by Gann as part of his football staff is former Southeast Whitfield girls basketball coach and Dade County assistant Tim Ellis. With more than 20 years of coaching experience, Bishop said he didn’t think Rainey had to look too far.
“Tim Ellis came in, and that just made me feel better that he could take over the program when this opportunity came up for me,” Bishop said. “It was just good timing. He’s been coaching basketball 20-plus years, and seeing him work with the boys this summer put my mind at ease.”