And now it’s down to 51.
The fourth installment of USA TODAY High School Sports’ “Best Of” contest series - the first-ever Best High School Football Coach competition - rolled into its regional round on Wednesday. The 51 regional finalists each won their state contest and for the start of the regional round all vote counts returned to zero.
In the state round, which concluded Tuesday, fans cast approximately 4.8 million total votes. The leading vote-getter among the 408 coaches was Philip Haywood of Belfry High in Kentucky. He received 149,760 votes.
The deadline for voting is Friday at 12 noon.
USA TODAY staffers selected eight active head football coaches in each state and Washington, D.C. after more than a month of conversations with local media and other state/school officials with high school football expertise. From there, the fans decide which coach emerges from a list of 408.
The state round began Sept. 30 and ended Oct. 8. The 51 winners advanced to a regional round, where they are divided among eight regions of six or seven coaches apiece. The regional round began at noon (ET) Oct. 9 and ends at noon (ET) Oct. 18. The eight regional winners move onto the national round, which starts at noon (ET) Oct. 21 and ends at noon (ET) Oct. 29. The champion is crowned based on most votes in the final round.
The athletic department of the winning coach will receive $2,000. Second through fifth places also receive cash prizes for the athletic departments: second ($1,000), third ($500), fourth ($250) and fifth ($100). All eight finalists receive banners for their schools.
The “Best Of” contest series launched last November with the best high school football rivalry competition, won by Brookfield vs. Marceline in Missouri. The teams celebrated their national title rivalry on Sept. 13 in Brookfield. In January, Hartford (Vt.) was crowned as the People’s Champion high school football team. And the monster of them all – the top high school mascot last spring – was won by the Centralia (Ill.) Orphans after 80 million total votes were cast during the competition.