Coach Vic Grider's retirement in South Pittsburg is a part of the altering panorama of pre-football – Chattanooga Instances Free Press
In just three months, two of the most revered soccer prep programs in the Chattanooga area have seen big changes.
It began in November with Wayne Turner leaving Tyner after over 30 years, and on Monday Vic Grider of South Pittsburg – one of the most successful coaches in state history – announced his resignation from his alma mater.
The region's soccer prep landscape will look different this fall as these two seasoned coaches patrol the sidelines for new programs. Turner has already been hired as an assistant at East Hamilton, and Grider, who was recently one of two finalists for the job of head coach at Dalton High, admitted he would like to look into other coaching opportunities.
"You are coming to a point in your career and my age where you need to figure out what is best for your future and the time has come for me to retire," said Grider, who also the school's assistant is the headmaster and sports director. “This is the only place I have ever known. Even though I knew the time would come, it was still a tough decision for me.
"I have been blessed to have spent the last 30 years of my life in a place I love and to have more great memories than I can ever name in a community that I love and that has always supported us."
While Turner had been in charge of Tyner since 1991, the 38 other Tennessee teams in the Chattanooga area made a total of 227 coach changes during that time. During that time, the Rams qualified for the playoffs in 27 of Turner's 30 seasons and made three state championship game play, including in 1997 when they became the first Hamilton County public school to win a title.
The success of South Pittsburg, which made it to at least the semi-finals in 15 of the 30 years Grider was on the baton, relies on similar stability.
As a member of the Greater Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame, Grider set an overall record of 232 to 54 (81 percent gain), with his teams claiming three Class 1A state championships (1999, 2007, 2010). Twice the Pirates ended the championship season with 15-0 records and he was also the defensive coordinator for the title team of the 1994 program.
Grider's teams finished second three times – in 2009, 2011 and 2020, with the Pirates finishing 13-2 last season.
Last week, Tyner named Tyrus Ward as head coach, and South Pittsburg is expected to be looking for Grider's replacement quickly.
"It feels weird now that he actually made the decision, and for many of us who grew up here, the lack of a grider on top will leave a big hole," said Tim Bible, director of South Pittsburg. "We're going to put together a committee to find our new coach because it's a decision that doesn't have to be made by just one person."
Under Grider the Pirates were 93-10 against regional opponents with 14 regional titles. In his 22 seasons as head coach, his teams have won 10 or more games 16 times, failed to win at least 9 games at least three times and only missed the playoffs once.
Grider was also the offensive player throughout his tenure as head coach, with the Pirates averaging 39 points per game during that time. Since the TSSAA introduced a 35-point grace rule in 2007, in which the clock runs continuously in the second half as soon as a team is at least 35 points ahead, 99 of South Pittsburg's 139 victories during that time have occurred under Grider Grace rule.
His 1998 team led the nation averaging 51.1 points in 14 games.
During Griders' more than two decades as head coach, South Pittsburg suffered only two defeats – by far the fewest of the TSSAA teams in the Chattanooga region. This model of persistence is even more impressive when you consider that it was run in a 1A school with fewer than 150 male students enrolled per year and in a rural area where the other two district schools together had 21 seasons with a record loss – Marion County 6, Whitwell 15.
His career record against county rivals Marion County is 16-6, including five straight wins and wins in 12 of their last 13 games.
"I'm particularly proud of that, of our consistency," said Grider. "We've found a way to hunt year after year, and it's pretty rare. There's something very special about this place and I'm smart enough to know that it's not like that everywhere."
Grider coached 18 Mr. Football finalists, 66 all-state players, and he and his father, the late Don Grider, are the most successful father-son tandem in state history with 424 combined wins.
Grider stepped down from coaching for two years in 2012, but returned after the roster dropped to just 17 players at one point. Since his return, the squad has more than tripled in size, and South Pittsburg has gone between 72 and 12, with nine of those losses benefiting a future state champion or runner-up. In the six years since his return, the Pirates have reached the semi-finals three times, the quarter-finals twice and lost the national championship title last season.
"When I came back, I wanted to have a different relationship with our players," said Grider. "I had health problems from having heart surgery and I think after that I was a level headed coach. It wasn't just about winning. I wanted to talk to the kids about other things outside of football and I tried that Losing perspective that, by and large, it wasn't the most important thing.
"South Pittsburg will always be my home no matter where I go from here. And nobody wants this program to be more successful than me, so I will always be their greatest supporter."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis
Vic Grider Coaching Highlights in South Pittsburg
* In 22 seasons as head coach, he set an overall record of 232-54.
* The Pirates appeared six times in Class 1A and won three titles.
* His teams were 93-10 against regional opponents with 14 regional championships.
* Since the TSSAA introduced a 35-point grace rule in 2007, the pirates have used it in 99 out of 139 victories.
* His 1998 Pirates led the nation averaging 51.1 points per game.
* He set a 16-6 record against rival Marion County, winning the last five and twelve of the last 13 meetings.
* Trained 18 Mr. Football finalists and 66 all-state players.
* He and his father, the late Don Grider, are the most successful father-son tandem in state history with 424 wins.