Manual has a pantheon of football coaches who won lots of games and State Championships Neal Arntson, Ab Kirwan, Ray Baer, Mike Basrak, Tom Harper and Charlie Bentley but none of those legends won as many games as Joe Nichols.From 2001 through 2009 Joe's teams won 66 games and lost only 38 qualifying for the KHSAA playoffs every year but 2003. His first team, led by fellow Hall of Fame inductee Keenan Burton, beat Male High 20-13 ending a 13-year losing streak against the ancient rival. The 1988 Crimson squad, winner of 13 games and runners-up for the State Title, had last beat the Bulldogs that year. The victories came so far apart that no one around Manual was familiar with the old tradition of the losing team presenting the barrel at the winner's victory assembly. With a surprise 9-2 record in 2001, Joe was named Coach of the Year in 4-A football.
The following year, sporting an 8-4 record, Joe was
named Paulie Miller High School Coach of the Year. He was named
District Coach of the Year by the Kentucky High School Football
Coaches Association in both 2004 (7-4) and 2007 (10-2). Under his
tutelage played five future NCAA Division I players Keenan Burton, Byron
Tinker, Andrew Robinson, Andre Henderson and Dave Ulinski. Burton also
played briefly in the NFL.
Joe grew up in Sellersburg, IN, graduating from
Providence High School. about 20 minutes away. He starred at Providence,
playing both linebacker on defense and fullback on offense.I
broke my ankle my senior year and missed 3 games, said Joe, which hurt
his chances of playing big time in college. I had offers from the
University of Evansville and a couple of other schools. Joe enrolled at
Indiana University Southeast, then transferred to Hanover where he
played in J.V. games, but due to a technicality with his transfer was
not allowed to play for Hanover's varsity.
Joe re-enrolled at
I.U.S., but football was still in his blood. He made a return visit to
Providence High only to connect with Head Coach Gene Sartini who gave
him the chance to coach the freshman team for three years while he
finished his degree.
In the summer of 1995 he was hired as freshman head coach at Manual
under first year coach Jerry Mayes, now Manual's principal. Joe became a
defensive line coach and was promoted to defensive coordinator before
Mayes highly recommended him for the head job in 2001 when Jerry left to
go to Pleasure Ridge Park High as assistant principal. The rest is
history. Nichols left Manual following the 2009 season and was hired as
head coach at Fern Creek High where he served the last four years
recently retiring to spend more time with his children.