Rafe Watkins is leaving Guthrie after all.
The longtime football coach was officially named the new coach at Muskogee on Friday, ending a month of speculation about the coach’s future.
The announcement comes less than two weeks after Watkins told The Oklahoman he would likely remain with the Bluejays.
“As far as I know, yeah, that’s the plan,” Watkins said at the time.
Attempts to reach Watkins on Friday were unsuccessful.
He took over the Guthrie program in 2001 and turned it into a Class 5A power, winning four state championships with the most recent being last season. He was named The Oklahoman’s Big All-City Coach of the Year after the Bluejays went 14-0.
But rumors started flying following the title game that Watkins would be leaving. He was named a finalist for the Broken Arrow position last month, but the Tigers ultimately chose assistant David Alexander for the position.
“I don’t know why now,” Watkins said then. “There’s been some opportunities over the years. Obviously, after every championship year you’re faced with some things because everybody then wants to talk to you or give you an opportunity, and I have been blessed to have a few opportunities over the last 13 years, but none that seemed quite as appealing as this.”
During his tenure, Guthrie missed the playoffs just once and amassed a 133-24 record. He was surrounded by controversy in 2011 when he was suspended eight games by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association for playing an ineligible player. Guthrie won the state championship with him watching from the stands.
Attention now turns to who will replace Watkins. In-house coaches like defensive coordinator Kelly Beeby and offensive coordinator Scott Mick have already emerged as possible names to watch, and has Watkins said before that if he leaves he would want one of his assistants to take over.
Watkins replaces Josh Blankenship, who left the Roughers to join his father’s staff at the University of Tulsa. Muskogee was 3-7 last season, but did win its final two games.
A source said Watkins was nearing a deal Thursday with the school and the Muskogee Phoenix reported that McAlester coach Bryan Pratt and Wagoner coach Dale Condict were finalists alongside Watkins, but they withdrew their consideration.
Another source said Watkins spent Friday in Muskogee finalizing the deal, which Muskogee later announced on its website.