WAXAHACHIE

After a decade leading Midlothian ISD athletics, Steve Keasler is headed back north to Southlake Carroll to serve as the executive director for athletics.

The transition became official July 16 after a unanimous vote by the Carroll ISD Board of Trustees. He is expected to begin in the new role prior to the school year.

While in Midlothian, Keasler, 51, oversaw an athletic program that integrated a second high school (Midlothian Heritage) into the district and had five teams qualify for respective state tournaments. Also under Keasler, Midlothian ISD also added varsity swimming and wrestling programs, began junior high soccer programs at both campuses, established the Midlothian Athletics Hall of Honor, and upgraded facilities across the district.

“From where when I first got there to where we are today, it has been an amazing ride,” Keasler said. “It wasn’t all about me, for sure. It was about a lot of people that trusted our vision and allowed the administrative group to make decisions to better our community.

“[…] There were some very difficult times but we just trusted the system, vision, and process and it is now something that all of the Midlothian people can be proud of, and they should be. Our kids should also be proud of what they have accomplished.”

He added that the open athletic director position is one that was “one of the most highly talked about jobs in the state” after several conversations had during the annual Texas High School Coaches Association conference in San Antonio earlier in the week. “That wasn’t the case when I took the job, that’s for sure….matter of fact people were running from it,” he added with a laugh.

Last season, the Midlothian High boys' basketball team became the first-ever MHS program to reach a state tournament at any level. The Lady Panthers golf team followed-suit a few weeks later — and both finished third. For upstart Heritage, the boys' basketball and golf teams reached the state tournament in 2017, while the girls' soccer team won the first state title in the history of Midlothian ISD last season in Georgetown.

Both 5A Midlothian and 4A Heritage completed the school year with record-high finishes in the UIL Lone Star Cup at 17th and 4th, respectively. The Lone Star Cup recognizes high schools based on their overall team achievement in a variety of sanctioned academic, athletic and music championships.

There were also three moments of athletic brilliance — at least for this sports writer to witness — that stood out along the way over the last few years: Caleb Jordan drilling a baseline three-pointer to send the Panther basketball team to the 5A state tournament and, of course, the Jaguar girls’ frantic final few minutes of their 4A state soccer championship.

Then there was Hogan Keasler, his son, splitting the uprights for a 19-yard game-winning field goal to complete a 52-50 come-from-behind win against Decatur at The Star in Frisco in 2016.

“In every one of those situations my stomach was turning, that’s for sure. But, I have to say, I was a pretty proud athletic director but mainly a pretty proud papa when [Hogan] nailed that kick at The Star,” he recalled. “We put a lot of work into both of our schools getting the opportunity to play at that location, and it was about a two-year program of trying to put all of that together. A lot of work went into that, so that was a fun way to finish that with him making that field goal.”

He added, “But I was pretty whacked out when the girls got into those finals, too.”

It also just so happens that in each instance Keasler was on the opposite end of the action when the magic occurred.

As for the next chapter, Keasler’s return to Carroll ISD is just that — a return. He spent nine years of his 29-year career in education (1994-2003) as a football, basketball, track and golf coach for the Dragons and Lady Dragons before departing in August 2003 to serve as the assistant men's golf coach at the University of Texas. He joined the staff in Midlothian in 2008.

Just after the hire became official, Keasler told Greg Riddle of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that his first stint in Carroll was a "really good time" and he knows "what the culture is like and what the expectations are."

According to a press release issued by Carroll ISD, Keasler has also coached at Grand Prairie and Callisburg ISDs, earned his bachelor's of science in physical education from East Texas State University and his master's of science in educational administration from Texas Christian University.

He replaces Darren Allman who was reassigned in March and Paul Pinson who had been serving as the interim executive director of athletics.

“I am so appreciative of everyone with Midlothian ISD, especially our coaches and our administrative group that trusted me and allowed me to have the vision to make changes,” Keasler added. “I also thank Dr. [JD] Kennedy for giving me the opportunity to work in Midlothian and Dr. [Lane] Ledbetter for entrusting me and allowing me to enhance my career.”

And, don’t worry Midlothian, he’ll still be around Midlothian Heritage next year — at least on most game days to watch his daughter, Kaylee.

“That place will always be something that I was a part of, and it will always be important for me to be around.”