By Joseph Hamrick
The Commerce Journal
Jeff Cleveland was announced as the new Commerce Independent School District Mens Athletic Director and Head Football Coach on June 4 during a special CISD School Board of Trustees meeting.
Cleveland comes to Commerce from Hanks High School in El Paso, where he spent the last 10 years as head coach.
According to CISD Superintendent Blake Cooper, Cleveland was chosen not only for his coaching skills, but also for his involvement in the community and in the classroom.
“To me, if you’ve got a good teacher you’ve got a good coach,” he said. “He is passionate about students, the community and the schools.”
After interviewing Cleveland and learning how he taught and coached his former students, Cooper said he knew he would fit in well at Commerce.
“He wants to win, but he wants to do it the right way,” he said.
Cleveland is an alumnus of East Texas State University, now Texas A&M University-Commerce, and already has connections with some of the university staff.
“Coach [Sam] Walker and I were Graduate Assistants together,” he said, adding his parents also live in the area, which played a large part in him making the move back to Commerce. “It’s a big reason I wanted to come back. You can’t put a price tag on spending time with your family.”
Instead of promising a playoff birth and championship every year, Cleveland said he has three main goals that make a successful athletic program.
“I’m not big on guarantees, and I’m not big on brash statements,” he said, adding the goals are to develop character and to perform well and be respectful in the classroom, which he said leads into the third goal, to win on the field. “That’s what we’re going to do here, we’re going to do the right thing.”
Cleveland runs a spread, no-huddle uptempo offense and plans to utilize the speed of his players to his advantage.
“We’re going to spread the field horizontally and vertically,” he said. “We’re going to start fresh, start from ground zero.”
Cleveland cited the state championships the team has won in the past as hope that he can help bring those championships back home.
“From a professional standpoint, I know what can be done,” he said. “In a place where championships have been won, they can be won again.”
A&M-Commerce Head Football Coach Colby Carthel made a similar statement when he was hired last year to turn around the struggling college program, highlighting the past successes of the college program.
When Carthel was putting together his coaching staff he said he had almost recruited Cleveland as a coach because he knew him through various coaching circles.
Carthel said with the talent Cleveland has as a coach, he looks forward to the partnership between the high school and college.
“He’s a good one,” he said.
Although Cleveland mainly discussed his role as football coach, he said he will not neglect any of the mens sports under his leadership.
“My first job is to take care of mens athletics,” he said, adding he wants every mens team to be successful under his leadership. “What could be more fun than winning all year long?”
Cleveland said if the community can help get behind the team and coaching staff, they can do great things.
“If we’re going to do this together, then it starts with me,” he said. “If you get behind us, believe in us and let us coach your kids, it’ll be fun to watch.”