• Won 81-percent of his games (162-43 overall)
• Won 3 state championships (1999, 2007, 2010) as head coach, one other as defensive coordinator (1994)
• Won 10 district or region titles
• Coached 14 Mr. Football finalists; 46 all-state players
• Has an 11-5 overall record against rival Marion County, including having won 7 straight, the longest in the series.
• 354 combined wins for Don and Vic Grider are the most for any father-son coaching tandem in state history.
SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — Vic Grider built a successful career by knowing when to make the right call. Even when it wasn’t the one most people expected.
Grider surprised the gathering for South Pittsburg’s postseason awards banquet Wednesday evening by announcing his resignation after 16 seasons as football coach at his alma mater.
“I’m a planner and I knew two years ago that this would be my last year,” said Grider, whose team finished 8-4 this season with a one-point loss at eventual state champion Gordonsville in the second round.
That marked the 14th time the Pirates had won at least 8 games under Grider.
“I always said that if I felt like I needed to do something else I wouldn’t be stubborn,” Grider continued. “Basically I just knew it’s time. I know I’ll miss it because it’s not easy to just give up something you’ve been around your whole life, but I’m also tired of the non-stop grind that comes with this job.”
The 46-year old Grider steps down after compiling one of the most accomplished prep coaching careers in Chattanooga-area history. He won 81-percent of his games, averaging 11 wins per season, and compiled a 162-43 overall record with three state championships and two runner-up finishes.
The Pirates have played in the state title game four of the last six years and he has coached 46 all-state players and 14 Mr. Football finalists.
“What I respect most about Vic is just the consistent dominance of his program,” said Trousdale County coach Kevin Creasy. “The bigger schools just reload because of the number of students they have in school, while most Class 1A teams go through down cycles. But not those guys and that speaks volumes for how good he is at what he does. He would find your weakness and attack it relentlessly.
“Even when Vic’s teams weren’t as talented as others you knew you were in for a fight for four quarters. His kids always hit that field prepared and motivated and they never backed down from playing the toughest competition.
“And he’s not leaving the cupboard bare. They’ve got a lot of talent coming back so he’s set the next guy up to be successful and that shows what a classy guy he is and that he cares more for the program than himself.”
The Pirates' program has known only three head coaches over the past 50 years, starting with Grider’s father, the late Don Grider, who won 192 games and a state title from 1969-92. Danny Wilson took over the program from 1993-96, also winning a state title with Vic Grider as his defensive coordinator.
As a testament to the program’s storied history, after winning a state title in 1969, South Pittsburg is the only school in the state to have played for a championship in all six decades since the TSSAA began its playoff format.
The Pirates have won more state championships (5) and appeared in more title games (11) than any other program in the area, and their 68 playoff wins are 16 more than Dalton, which is the next closest area team.
Since the TSSAA implemented a mercy rule, Grider’s teams have beaten 53 of the 83 teams they have played in that six-year span by the 35-point mercy rule.
In Grider’s first season as head coach, with only two assistants on staff, he worked as both the offensive and defensive coordinator for a team that reached the quarterfinals. Two years later he won the first of his three state titles as head coach.
“South Pittsburg is losing a great coach and person,” said former all-state running back Eddie Moore, who went on to play linebacker at the University of Tennessee and was the first pick by the Miami Dolphins in the 2002 NFL Draft. Moore is now the assistant vice president at First Volunteer Bank and has a street named in his honor in his hometown. “He’s a man who cares about the students, his players and everything about South Pittsburg.
“He’s been very impactful in my life. When I was in high school he could’ve told coaches I had an attitude problem and to stay away from me. But he didn’t. He saw something in me I didn’t even see in myself at the time and that changed my life. I don’t know any of my friends who are former players that can say their high school coach is one of their best friends. But I can and I can’t thank him enough for that.”
While calling the offensive plays in 1998, Grider’s Pirates led the nation with a 51.1 point per game scoring average. The 2007 state title team averaged 48 points and scored on 31 of 38 offensive possessions in the playoffs, including four times in which the Pirates took a knee to end the game or a half. That year, with Grider calling the plays, the Pirates scored 41 touchdowns of 30-plus yards.
“He’s the best we go against every year,” said Tony Webb, who has coached against Grider the last nine years at Lookout Valley. “He’s carried on a great tradition for his dad and the program is better than ever. It’s not just a team of athletes. They’re football players that have been taught the right way.
“I’ve always been amazed at how he will change offense to suite the type of talent he has each year. Most coaches are stubborn and stick with one offense, but he’s run everything from the ‘I’, to the wing-T, power-I and even the spread. And he always gets the best out of his kids every week. They step on the field with a bull’s eye on their back every week and they’re always up to the challenge. That goes back to Vic’s preparation.”
Grider has been South Pittsburg’s athletic director since 1997 and became assistant principal seven years ago. He has been acting principal since the second week of the current school year after former principal Allen Pratt took a job with the Tennessee Department of Education. Grider said he has no interest in becoming principal.
And while there are two former head coaches currently on the school faculty (Wilson and former Scottsboro coach Fred Tidmore), Grider also added that the new coach would come from outside the program and would be in place by February.
As athletic director he also orchestrated an apparel deal with Adidas, which along with the on-field success helped Grider reach his goal of having the program become a recognized brand.
“I believe I’ve left it in better shape than I’ve found it,” Grider said. “I’m especially proud of the number of kids we have put into college to play and the fact that we’re now one of the four or five premier programs in the entire state. That’s not bragging, it’s just the truth when you consider our program is known statewide as one of the favorites about every year.
“This is a really special place to coach. Aside from the family history we have you have kids who care about football and being successful. My next plan is to be assistant principal, athletic director, coach softball and pull for the Pirates next year.”
Since Vic Grider took over the Pirates they lead the area in several scoring categories, as well as points allowed during his career.
Times scoring 50-plus points
1. South Pittsburg 71
2. Cleveland 42
1. South Pittsburg 24
2. Tyner 14
1. South Pittsburg 10
2. Cleveland 3
Games allowed fewer than 10 points (shutouts in parentheses)
1. South Pittsburg 121 (52)
2. North Jackson 118 (38)
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...