Columbia’s Bilderback named WDAM-TV ‘Coach of the Year’

Published: Dec. 26, 2021 at 11:37 PM CST
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COLUMBIA, Miss. (WDAM) -Since joining the Columbia football team four years ago, Head Coach Chip Bilderback has revitalized a historic program in a town saturated with talent.

At the end of the 2020 season, the Wildcats experienced heartbreak after losing in the South State Championship game for the second year in a row, but Bilderback had a message for the underclassman.

“Delayed does not mean denied,” Bilderback said. “You know it wasn’t our moment now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be our moment next year as long as we keep working and we keep getting better.”

That was the goal for the entire 2021 season and it worked. The Wildcats made it to a state championship game for the first time since 1998, but they would be tested tremendously while there.

Only up by one with time winding down in the fourth quarter, Senatobia High School was driving and it came down to a field goal from the 4-yard line.

The kick was no good, preserving a 22-21 victory for the Wildcats.

“Seeing our kids celebrate and the relationships that we have as coaches with them, and knowing that we were able to achieve that together, collectively, that’s a special feeling,” Bilderback said. “You don’t know what it feels like until you’ve been there.”

But it was never really about the championship for Bilderback.

“I think as much as you want to win the gold ball, that’s everyone’s goal, but ultimately only one team is going to win it and that doesn’t necessarily justify if you’re a great coach or not,” Bilderback said. “What justifies it is the impact that you have on the kids day to day.”

The Wildcats coach first state title was a lifetime in the making.

“My dad was a high school coach for over 30 years. Married my wife Missy and she’s a coach too, and her dad was a coach, so got into coaching 20 years ago,” the Columbia head coach said. “This is year 20.”

“Being a football coach’s son, you just love football. There’s something about football, just the camaraderie that you have with your players, the hard work and it really takes all 11.”

A proud Columbia program had been struggling, going 21-31 in the five seasons prior to Bilderback taking the reins.

“The first year, the main thing was getting our kids to ... I guess it’s a big word that everyone talks about is culture, but we established who we wanted to be,” Bilderback said.

Since establishing that culture, the Wildcats have gone 46-8 in Bilderback’s four seasons as head coach.

“Once we got into the cycle of winning and the kids got their confidence up, I think they really could believe, ‘Hey, we can really win a lot here at Columbia,’” Bilderback said.

But being a coach is more than just wins and losses for Bilderback.

Relationships and helping develop character are bigger pieces of the puzzle.

“We want them to be better people having been a part of the Columbia football, meaning nothing about wins and losses on the field; meaning everything on if they become a better person,” Bilderback said.

“We want them to be good fathers. We want them to be great husbands later in life, so we really are hopeful and intentional about trying to teach that to our players. We want them to be better, better having been a part of our program.”

As for the future of the Wildcats program...

“I think the sky’s the limit here at Columbia,” Bilderback said. “I think we can continue to have success. Now, that’s not to say that we will win championship after championship. You got to be a little bit lucky as we saw this year.

“What we like to say is we want to sustain success over years and I think that’s where you can tell where the real champions are.”

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