Wednesday, November 10, 1999

Bellevue boss wants state title before retiring

Enquirer contributor

        To Bellevue's Charlie Coleman, football coach is more than a job title. It's his identity.

        Coleman, who says he wasn't a very good football player in high school, is a pretty good leader on the sidelines now. He has a 93-77 career record at Bellevue and Rowan County, and the '99 Tigers are 11-0 for the first time since 1951. They hold the No. 1 ranking in Class A entering Friday's second-round playoff game against Newport Central Catholic.

        Coleman, 51, wants people to know coaching is important to him in this life — and afterward.

        “I've already told my family when that fatal day comes, I want "Coach' put on my tombstone,” he said.

        Coleman has been around sports nearly all his life. His sister and brother-in-law, Marian and Bob Vanderpool, took in the 9-year-old Coleman after his mother died. Bob Vanderpool was Newport's boys basketball coach at the time, and Marian was an elementary school teacher.

        “That's how I've been raised,” Coleman said. “I've been raised by a teacher and a coach.”

        Coleman, a 145-pound guard in his playing days, graduated from Newport in 1966 and Eastern Kentucky University in 1970. He took a teaching job at Newport Junior High, but something was missing: football.

        “I didn't really love it until I couldn't play,” Coleman said. “I didn't like not having something to do on Friday nights.”

        Coleman was a Bellevue assistant from 1975-83, helping the Tigers win two state titles. Former Bellevue and Morehead State coach Bill Baldridge suggested Coleman apply for the Rowan County job, but when Coleman arrived in Morehead in 1984, his wardrobe didn't seem right.

        “I never owned anything green,” Coleman said of the Vikings' primary color. “They gave me a Rowan County green sweater.”

        Coleman's start wasn't smooth.

        “We lost our first three games,” he said. “I had sold my house (in Fort Thomas). I was about to cut my throat, figura tively.”

        Rowan County recovered, winning the next seven, finishing 7-4 and making the playoffs, and the Vikings went 7-3 in 1985. Coleman became an assistant at Holmes in 1986.

        When he took over at Bellevue in '87, Coleman found a program with problems. The Tigers had stumbled to a combined 6-14 record in 1985-86, a long way from the 1977 and '79 state Class A championship teams and the runner-up finishes in 1976, '80 and '81.

        The first thing Coleman did was meet the players on their turf.

        “I went and visited every kid's home who said they wanted to play football,” he said. “I wanted to establish rapport and let them know football was important in Bellevue.”

        Senior linebacker Joey Grainger remembers the time Coleman told him to play like his uncle, Andy Schreiber. “It made me want to play harder,” Grainger said.

        Coleman's coaching style could best be described as classical: establish the running game, skip the run-and-shoot and other gimmicky offenses, play solid defense. In 1990, the strategy proved powerful — Bellevue finished 12-3, though the Tigers lost to Russellville 21-7 in the state finals.

        Said Beechwood coach Mike Yeagle, the victim of a 17-0 shutout to Bellevue on Oct. 8: “He's a hard-nosed (man) who gives every inch he's got. That's why his kids play so hard.”

        Bellevue is in the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six years and eighth this decace. Coleman is passing on the football tradition: His son, Cameron, is a sophomore running back and strong safety at Campbell County.

        But 1999 may be Coleman's last season if the Tigers take the title Dec. 3.

        “Probably, if we would win in Louisville, I think I'd bow out,” Coleman said. “I feel I could turn the program over in good hands.”


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