December 4, 2009 8:53:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Sometimes there comes a time when a coach has to give up something he loves.
That time has come for Starkville High School football coach Bill Lee.
After 30 years of coaching on the high school and junior college levels, Lee has decided to retire effective at the end of the school year.
Lee said opportunity to spend more time in ministry and with his family motivated him to make the decision.
The move, which must be approved Wednesday at the next meeting of the Starkville School Board, has been tough for Lee because of the special feelings he has for the Yellow Jackets.
"I still love the kids and the school," Lee said. "There are some good things ahead for this team, and I don''t think it''s going to take very long."
Lee, who spent most of his coaching career as an assistant at Moss Point High, was head coach at Starkville High for seven seasons and compiled a record of 46-38.
He led the Yellow Jackets in 2001 when they captured the Class 5A state championship.
After three seasons as football coach at Gulf Coast Community College, Lee returned to Starkville in 2004 and coached six more seasons.
The Yellow Jackets finished this season 4-8 and 2-4 in Class 6A, Region 1, District 2. They lost to Madison Central 63-27 in the first round of the playoffs.
Starkville School Superintendent Judy Couey confirmed Thursday morning Lee is retiring, but would remain as athletic director and football coach until the end of the year.
Couey said Lee''s announcement means the school can start looking for his replacement after the board meets Wednesday. She said Lee informed her of his plans before the start of the football season, but both agreed not to make the news public in the middle of the season.
"I asked he would not disclose that until after football season," Couey said. "We thought it would be a distraction."
Couey said the decision to retire was Lee''s and he wasn''t pressured to leave.
"I''m a Bill Lee fan, and I respect his wishes," Couey said.
Coaching rivals and friends call Lee one of the "good people" of the profession.
West Point High coach Chris Chambless, who will lead his team Saturday against Wayne County in the Class 5A championship game, said the rivalry between the schools didn''t hurt their friendship.
"You won''t find a better person in coaching," Chambless said. "He''s someone you can call and talk to. You can get advice from him and he''s also a very good football coach.
"Things haven''t gone his way the last couple of seasons, but they don''t always do that. No matter how good a coach you are, sometimes things aren''t going to go your way."
Noxubee County coach M.C. Miller considers Lee a friend and someone who will be missed.
Although his Tigers didn''t always play the Yellow Jackets during the season, Miller knew of Lee''s reputation.
"I hate to see him leave, but there comes a time when someone wants to retire," Miller said. "He did a good job. I just think the world of him, and I wish him luck in his retirement."
Louisville''s Brad Peterson said Lee was someone he looked up to and took positives from. He admires the way Lee ran a clean program and had no internal problems.
"He''s a class act, and his kids always seem to act the right way," Peterson said. "He''s a guy who represents the coaching profession in a great way."
A COACH commented at 12/11/2009 3:04:00 PM:
He is going to be missed. He is a great man, friend, co-worker, and athletic director. We wish him the best of luck in whatever his retirement future may bring.
A COACH commented at 12/11/2009 3:05:00 PM:
In that list of his many great thing I forgot to list the best quality. He is a great coach.
1. Starkville Academy beats Heritage Academy to reach title game HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. MSU seniors earn rousing send-off COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Moorhead adds coach; MSU baseball team promotes Brown COLLEGE SPORTS
4. MSU softball team splits first two games in California COLLEGE SPORTS
5. MSU men knock off South Carolina in overtime HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS