Carl Diffee Jr., named new Bulldog coach
By Victor Parkins
It didn’t take the Bulldogs long to name a new head football coach.
Carl Diffee Jr. was introduced to his Bulldog team Monday afternoon, just two weeks after former coach Craig ‘Teddy’ Pettigrew was forced out of the position.
A Jackson Tennessee native, Diffee, 30, comes to Milan after a successful stint at North Panola High School in Sardis Mississippi.
North Panola credits Diffee for helping turn around a program that was the doormat of Mississippi High School football.
Three seasons prior to Diffee joining the varsity staff, the Cougars were 6-24, including two, 1-win seasons. In his role as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator, the Cougars surged to four straight playoff appearances. When Diffee was named head coach in 2016, he led his team to a 10-3 record with a quarterfinal playoff appearance in his first season. His second season, his team set three school records by winning the first district title in school history, recording the best record in school history at 13-1 that included a trip to the semi-finals. He went 12-2 in his third year that included back-to-back district titles and another trip to the semi-finals. In 2019 the Class 3A Cougars were 8-4 but lost all four games by a combined 14 points. His four year record at North Panola was 43-10, with a playoff record of 8-4.
Diffee will become Milan’s 5th head coach in the last 48 seasons.
“Traditionally, Milan is the premier football program in West Tennessee,” Diffee said. “I’m excited about the opportunity and I know I’ve got big shoes to fill.”
Under Diffee, the Bulldogs will employ an up tempo offense out of multiple formations, depending on the capabilities of his players. His defense will show multiple fronts depending on his opponent each week.
The coach said relationships with his players are just as important as the product he puts on the field.
“Football is a relationship driven sport and high school football is all about the kids,” the coach said. “I believe in a family approach. It falls on me as the head of that family to set strict guidelines, encourage our coaches and players to follow them, celebrate with them when they do, and correct them when they don’t. I believe in investing in my players lives. If I only care about them for 2 hours a day, I’m not going to make a difference in their lives.”
Milan Principal Greg Scott said Diffee was the perfect candidate for the job.
“Coach Diffee took an unsuccessful program at North Panola and all he did was win football games,” Scott said. “At the same time, he is exactly the kind of coach we want our young men to play for and be impacted by. I think the Milan community will be excited to get behind a physical and exciting brand of football that will build on the foundation of excellence that has been established over the past 50 years,” Scott added.
Diffee worked for one year at Oxford, Mississippi as a middle school assistant before climbing the coaching ladder at North Panola, Miss., in 2012.
During his first season North Panola, Diffee was named assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. He was responsible for the planning, organizing, and executing of all aspects of the North Panola Football program from pee-wee football through varsity. As the OC, Diffee coordinated offensive staff meetings and coached the quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and tight ends. He oversaw the production of the playbook, goal sheets, wristbands, and player guides.
In 2015, Diffee was named Athletic Coordinator of the North Panola School System. In that capacity he supervised and managed all athletic activity accounts and eligibility requirements. He scheduled and coordinated district wide athletic events and developed standard operating procedures for district athletics.
During his 8 years at NP, Diffee was credited for helping raise over $900,000 in private donations to help upgrade facilities and equipment that included a new indoor turf practice facility and a remodeled field house.
“We formed relationships with businesses and helped them see the positive impact their contributions could make to the overall health of the town and community,” said Diffee about his fundraising efforts. “We were blessed to have one of the most philanthropic people I’ve ever met in our community (Bob Dunlap) and he and I constantly worked to improve our facilities and program.”
The ball coach said he’s looking forward to coaching in the refurbished Johnnie Hale Stadium next fall.
“I think Johnnie Hale Stadium is in the perfect location,” he said. “The fact that it is getting a makeover in the center of town serves notice that Milan is serious about success and doing things the right way.”
South Panola high school football coaching legend Ricky Woods has high praise for Diffee.
“Milan has not only hired a great football coach but a fine young man as well,” said Woods, who has won 8 state championships in Tennessee and Mississippi. “Our schools are just 8 miles apart so we talk from time to time. The people of Sardis are really going to miss Carl because he was a big part of that community. He’s a young, high energy guy and did a great job at North Panola. I understand his kids love playing for him. Milan is getting a really good football coach.”
Former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze believes Milan is getting a smart, offensive minded coach.
“Carl had a tremendous impact on the young men and the community at North Panola,” Freeze said. “He is a very bright football mind and a rising star in high school football.”
Coach Freeze and Diffee became friends when the Ole Miss coach recruited and signed two players from North Panola.
“Coach Freeze always had an open door policy for us and I was able to grow as a coach by watching him run the football program at Ole Miss,” explained Diffee. “I would go over and hang out with his staff, learn, and seek advice on certain things.”
Diffee said he takes pride in the stadium and the field his teams play on. He likes to personally mow the grass and care for the stadium.
“The football field and stadium is the gathering point for so many small communities like Milan,” the coach noted. “It brings people together. It is imperative that the facility is perfect. It is also my escape. I don’t have many hobbies, so being able to jump on a mower, grab a weed eater, or run a tractor is a nice way to clear my head.”
The new Bulldog coach said he’s ready to hit the ground running.
“First I want to get to know the kids, the community and the school faculty. I’d like to hold some meetings to explain my vision and core values with the stakeholders and set norms and standards in our facility,” he said.
Coach Diffee is certified in Special Education, Computer Science, U.S. History and Business Marketing and Management. He graduated from the University of Mississippi in 2012 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing, and from Trinity Christian Academy in 2008. He is the son of Carl and Jean Diffee of Jackson.