Rice named Columbus head coach
Published 12:37 pm Friday, March 16, 2018
Rice named Columbus head coach
By Myra Bean
As of April 23, former South Panola assistant coach Eric Rice will assume the head coaching position at Columbus High School.
A native of Starkville, Rice set himself apart on the football field and as a coach. He was an assistant at North Panola for a year before taking a position at South Panola.
“I will get back into 6A football,” Rice said. “It is definitely a blessing to be at the highest level of football that we have in the state of Mississippi. I will go against elite coaches and elite talent week in and week out. Definitely it will be a big challenge.”
He left in 2012 to take the head coach/athletic director positions at Benton County School District which did not have a football program at the time.
He started the program and they have had winning records each of their four seasons. They made the playoffs the last two seasons.
Obviously, when Columbus went looking for a head coach, they wanted one who could back up the talk.
Rice said he told the administration that he wanted to see Columbus’ name mentioned with all the top football programs in Mississippi.
The school is in the same district as South Panola, 1-6A.
“I told them my future goals for that program and our young men is to become winners in all aspects of their lives in the classroom, hallway, on the football field, out in the community,” Rice said. “I want those guys to be leaders. I want to build the football program to the level of a South Panola where when you talk about high school football In Mississippi, Columbus would be mentioned in the same breath as we move forward with the program.”
Rice said the experience at South Panola gave him the training that will benefit him in this new endeavor. He was on the coaching staff that helped South Panola win the national championship in 2010.
Columbus sits in the area near West Point and Starkville, known as the Golden Triangle.
“I told the (Columbus) administration that I want Columbus to be the champion of the golden triangle area,” Rice said. “If we are able to do that, then we will definitely be able to compete with anybody in the state.”
Even though he knows what challenges are ahead of him, Rice described Benton County as his child since the program started up with him.
“It was definitely a tough decision, but just like in all things I want to advance, grow and Columbus provided an opportunity for me to do that in my coaching career. I felt like it was something that I needed to do as far as my career is concerned,” Rice said. “I will be forever grateful Benton County gave me that opportunity to get started as a head football coach.”
Rice said he is leaving the program in good hands.
“Both schools there will get a good coach in, carry the football program forward. The great administration there that will do the best job to get the best person there that they can to fill my void.”
In the meantime, he is turning his head forward to moving closer to home and accepting the challenges the Columbus program presents. Columbus has a history of inconsistency in its program throughout the years. Some years they will be close to being playoff contenders and other years they would barely present a challenge to most teams.
Rice went to the board talking about turning Columbus into an elite program and building that program into a state championship contender.
“I would like to see the program go through that consistency of being one of the top programs year end and year out. That when the preseason polls come out, Columbus’ name is always going to be there because of what we will be able to do on the football field every consecutive Friday,” Rice added.
“The consistency is what they are really lacking. Sometimes they are really good and sometimes they have been low. We want to get them to a point where they are consistently in the playoffs, consistently their name is mentioned with the better programs in the state.”
“Eventually, get to the point where we are competing for state championships. At the end of the day that is why we compete, just want to be the best and we want to get to that level,” he continued.
Columbus starts the season with one of the toughest schedules for their first three games. They open the season against 5A state champion West Point. The second game is against 4A state champion Noxubee County and the third game is against 6A runner up Starkville.