Greene County Hall of Fame: IN BILL WE TRUST
By BRANDON HURLEY
Nothing symbolized Bill Kibby’s meticulous attention to detail more than his infamous pregame routine.
The former Linduska Field groundskeeper and his wife, Mary, would spend hours each week mowing and lining the yard lines and out-of-bounds markers. Kibby initially did it out of love and compassion for his wife, who’d been mowing the field for several years, but he found the process therapeutic.
“It’s a great stress reliever, I love it,” he said in the Jefferson Bee back in 1996, eight years into his Jefferson coaching career. “There are no phone calls, and if people want me, they have to come out and find me.”
The Kibbys typically mowed the field everyday during the summer and at least every other day during the season. The entire coaching staff helped mark the field prior to each home game, a process that lasted nearly four hours while mowing required about an hour’s worth of time.
That immense precision and care helped Kibby compile 117 wins as the Jefferson-Scranton/Paton-Churdan head football coach, leading the Rams to 10 playoff appearances. He also guided the school to its only two state semifinal appearances, securing IFCA Class 2A coach of the year honors in 2006 after powering the Rams to a perfect regular season, culminating in the school’s most recent trip UNI Dome.
The long-list of moments spearheaded by Kibby were iconic and heart-stopping, though the impact was forever lasting.
Fierce loyalty embodies his legend. An unrivaled compassion which paved the way for a life-time of success. And now, Kibby’s achievements are forever immortalized in Greene County lore as the headliner for the inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame class, a 2020 group that also includes a pair of six-on-six stars, Jefferson’s only state team title and a multi-sport icon.
Kibby also served as the long-time Jefferson-Scranton activities director, overseeing one of the most successful athletic eras in school history. He coached football for 47 seasons in all, leading the Fort Dodge St. Edmond Gaels on the gridiron for 20 years prior to his gig in Jefferson. The IFCA Hall of Famer compiled 240 career victories, the 11th most in Iowa history. He captured a pair of track state championships with St. Edmond, a compelling cap to a wonderful career.
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Kibby, a Lohrville native, first caught the football bug at Central College. He began his coaching and teaching career at Bayard High School (1962-64), where he spent just one year as an assistant football. He was named Bayard head coach at the ripe and inexperienced age of 24 where he also coached basketball for two years. Kibby was paid the magnificent wage of $100 per sport. The ridiculously low compensation barely even fazed the future Hall of Famer.
“I would have done it for nothing,” Kibby said in an interview with the Jefferson Bee in 1996. “I really enjoy coaching football. I love being outdoors and I love the game.”
After his introductory stint in Bayard, Kibby took an assistant’s job at Johnston for two years where he later became head coach (1964-67). He followed that with a 110-74 run at Fort Dodge St. Edmond during a 21 year stint. He was intrigued by the possibility of making the short jaunt south. Kibby, 80, still lives in Fort Dodge to this day, nine years after his retirement from coaching.
The incredible mark Bill Kibby left on Greene County’s largest school district still resonates today. During his time in Jefferson from 1988 to 2011, he reveled in the glory of each of his athletes success.
“There were good people here,” Kibby said during his acceptance speech Jan. 16 in Jefferson. “Which made me want to come. It’d be impossible to name all the coaches (that helped me).”
Kibby was the driving force behind Jefferson-Scranton’s electric run in the late 80s and 90s, the era in which every member of the 2020 Hall of Fame class originated. He held on to the same three coaches during his entire tenure – John Turpin, Mark Sawhill and Tom Powers – all of whom became close friends.
“Consistency is the word I describe Bill with,” fellow 2020 Hall of Fame inductee and J-S track and football star Brent MacLagan said Jan. 16. “He set the bar. It’s very hard to maintain that consistency. A consistent philosophy, a consistent demeanor. I knew exactly what Bill expected of me.”
Kibby’s requirement for discipline as well as his unrivaled compassion, led to the infamous moniker, In Bill We Trust. He’s always been a well-liked human (it’s fairly difficult to find any negative stories), it just so happens his greatest qualities were best utilized in the realm of sports.
Each athlete and student who walked through the doors of the Jefferson-Scranton High School built a connection with the former athletic director.
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Four simple words epitomized Kibby’s reign. “In Bill We Trust” was splattered across a memorable T-shirt, one that symbolized history and loyalty. A fitting honor to the school’s greatest football coach.
The jolting phrase was the theme of the 1999 Jefferson-Scranton/Paton-Churdan football playoff shirt, but it represented so much more.
The front of the shirt was decorated by an image of a dollar bill with Bill KIbby’s mug shot firmly in the middle in place of the usual president.
The bottom shared the impactful phrase “Who would have thunk it?”
Even now, the shocking and momentum shifting result feels more like a dream than an actual reality.
The Rams faced a daunting task as they prepared for their 1999 quarterfinal match. Not only was pride on the line, but . Victory seemed unlikely against the two-time defending state champion giant Harlan. The Cyclones were in the midst of a 19-game winning streak, averaging 34.5 points per game and a massive 250 yards on the ground.
What transpired was a master class in defensive prowess, resulting in the greatest upset in Jefferson-Scranton/Paton-Churdan history. The Rams completely obliterated the Cyclone offense in a 6-0 victory, Harlan’s first home loss in nearly seven years. The top-ranked champions mustered just 83 rushing yards, almost 200 yards below their average.
“That was the party I really remember, down in Harlan,” Kibby said. “It was a tremendous game. We didn’t want to leave.”
J-S/P-C felt like a team of destiny as they drove the length of the field the following week, hoping to set up a game-winning field goal in the school’s first ever semifinal appearance. Trailing 10-8 to Central Lyon/George-Little Rock with the final seconds ticking away and a championship date hanging in the balance, the Rams lined up for a 21-yard field goal inside the 10. Once the ball was snapped, the Cinderella story came crashing to a halt. A Central Lyon defender burst through the center of the offensive line, not only pulverizing the airborne pigskin, but also the Rams’ dreams of a title.
The 1999 Dome trip set the table for J-S/P-C’s miraculous run over the course of the fall season some seven years later. The Rams entered the 2006 campaign having won just eight games combined in the last four years, in dire need of a winning season. J-S/P-C, led by a magnificent running game, not only captured a winning season, but they also compiled the school’s longest winning streak in history.
Jefferson-Scranton’s first-ever playoff victory, a grueling 14-8 triumph over Webster City paved the way for the 1991 ice storm, setting the stage for a unique matchup. The Rams had lost their two previous appearances in 1985 and 1990 with who else, but Webster City prevailing each time. The 1985 team was undefeated in the regular season, but the Lynx absolutely dismantled one of the school’s greatest teams. Then, Kibby arrived. He had Jefferson-Scranton winning games three years after his arrival. A stunning turnaround for a community starved for success.
“One of the biggest wins I’ve ever experienced,” Kibby said at the time.
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Parts of the Bill Kibby era in Jefferson were certainly tumultuous, not to his fault. The community was furious with the school board’s decision to eliminate Kibby’s position as activities director back in 2006. Seventy-five people attended a February school board meeting in support of Kibby. Nearly a dozen community members - including students and parents - spoke on behalf of the Hall of Fame coach. Kibby was removed from the AD position in a cost-cutting effort, but was allowed to retain his role as football coach.
“If only one word could be used to describe his decision-making process, I would choose loyalty from a lengthy list of options,” Dustin Briggs said in a letter to the editor in 2006. Briggs was a 2000 graduate of Jefferson-Scranton. “I write this letter more on behalf of Bill Kibby’s character as opposed to the work he has done in his position of activities director, but his performance deserves acknowledgement,” Briggs continued.
Coincidentally enough, that fall, the Rams returned to the state semifinals in the UNI Dome where for just the second time in school history, reaching as high as Number 2 in the state rankings.
The Dome trip put an emphatic finishing touch on J-S/P-C’s first winning season since 2001.
Kibby also spearheaded funding for Jefferson’s all-weather track, which is still in use today. He coached dozens of all-district players, a handful of all-state nominees and produced the greatest era of football in school history.
He’s legacy will stand the test of time, and thanks to his Greene County Hall of Fame induction, he’ll never be forgotten.
“(Bill Kibby) believed in me and truly supported our teams. His contributions are invaluable, and his genuine interest arguably rare,” Jefferson-Scranton 100-meter state Allison Drewry said in a letter to the editor in 2006. “He built the activities program, and his influence in Greene County is irreplaceable.“