Some in the Lowcountry view Ken Cribb as a miracle worker. Many simply call him “Coach Cribb.” Most are just thrilled he doesn’t take rejection hard. Cribb, 45, became the toast of the town this fall after he led Bluffton High School’s football team to unimaginable heights: The team reached the Lower State finals to cap a season that galvanized the Lowcountry.
For Cribb, it was the latest chapter in an already-impressive multi-sport coaching career. But, the coach says, it was also something much more special. Prior to the 2010 season, the Bobcats had never beaten archrival Hilton Head Island — or for that matter won more than four games in season, let alone a region championship or a playoff game. This year, Bluffton went 12-2, beat Hilton Head twice, and won its region and three playoff games.
For Cribb, those kinds of turnarounds have become something of a speciality. “I’ve gotten labeled as a builder,” says Cribb. “I’ve taken over many teams that were bad.”
Cribb knew from an early age he wanted to coach – and others did, too. As a high school freshman, he got the nickname “Coach Cribb” from his football coach. “I guess I was trying to contribute and let them know what I thought they ought to be doing,” he says.
The idea stuck. Cribb got his first job coaching soccer at Wilson High School in Florence in 1989, and spent the next decade amassing a reputation for turning perennial losers into winners at different schools and in different sports — he’s coached soccer, baseball and even golf. In 1998, he landed the football head coaching gig at his native Georgetown – which, he says, was one of the worst programs in the state at the time. By his second season, they were in the playoffs.
Cribb credits his childhood for the ability to turn losing teams into winners. “I think it has to do with work ethic,” he says. “I grew up working on a farm, working on the tobacco fields when I was 9.”
That includes learning how to not give up — for instance, after he was passed over for the Bluffton job in 2007. Following the departure of then-coach Jeremy West last spring, Cribb applied again with better results. And upon earning the position this time, Cribb shared lofty goals with his doubtful players.
“In the beginning, the looks were there,” says Cribb. “You could see it in their expressions. ‘We’re going to advance to the playoffs? Do you know where you are?’”
With each passing week and victory, those doubts turned to belief. The result was a season like no other for the Bobcats, and the beginning of something special for Cribb.
“Moving is always tough,” says Cribb. “But I was looking for the right place for my family. I wanted to go where it matters and where people get excited about (football). This town has really won me over.”