Willard Bailey: Not Just A Legendary Coach, A Difference Maker

By L.A. Batchelor
Updated: June 6, 2006

VIRGINIA — Classiness, professionalism, integrity, a winning tradition and a winning tradition are just some of the words that are frequently used to describe the CIAA’s winningest football coach.

Saint Paul’s legendary head coach Williard Bailey has amassed a career record of 211-112 including seven CIAA titles, five Division II Playoffs trips, and with eight players who have gone on to play in the NFL.

But with such credentials, why would a successful coach like Bailey decide to take on the daunting task of turning around a perrinnial losing football program that is also small and in need of a new facility and funding to survive like Saint Paul’s College?

That question and others were answered recently as I had the pleasure of sitting down with the legendary coach at the Saint Paul’s College “WIN-WIN TEAM FOR YOUTH ENRICHMENT” Fundraising Dinner. The enrichment program consist of the “FOUR QUARTERS OF CONCERN”: ACCIDENTS, SUICIDE, HOMICIDE AND AIDS.

These are new programs design to be a cornerstone of Saint Paul’s College in the hope that it will entice more students to attend the small HBCU of 700. The fundraiser was designed to bring awareness to the new enrichment programs and also to be a monetary drive to help consume some of the cost for the new 26,530 square foot building that they plan to break ground on June 1st of this year.

LA Batchelor: “You come back to a college with no football program since 1987, a football program with a tradition of losing and you return with a coaching legacy of championships and winning tradition thats unparalled. Why come back?”

Coach Bailey: “Number one, we wanted to try something that we’ve never tried before and that was to go to a football team that had never won a CIAA Championship was an exciting challenge for us and it was also a great opportunity to get the staff back together again.”

LA Batchelor: “Knowing the record of football here at Saint Paul College and the fact they had no football in nearly 20 years, what was your realistic expectations in terms of wins your first season(which was 2005)?”

Coach Bailey: “Our expectations were to win as many games as we loss and to be competitive in all of our game because we were sizing our opponents up as they were sizing us up as well. We thought we were good enough to win 6 games(finished with 4 wins and 6 losses) but some things happen to us that sometimes you can’t control.”

LA Batchelor: “So were you generally happy with the 4 and 6 record?”

Coach Bailey: “Yes, we were happy with the 4 and 6 record because we know we outplayed 2 of the teams but the victories just didn’t come our way but that was alright for the first year. We certainly want to do better for the second year, but that was alright for the first year.”

LA Batchelor: “Speaking of your second year, when you look at the returning players for this upcoming season, you don’t have a lot of seniors or juniors a few sophomores but mostly freshmen. What is your approach to this season when you have so little experience returning on your roster?”

Coach Bailey: “Well we know one of the things is to keep it simple. We need to have as many reps (repititions) as possible with our young people whether its pass, run, offense, defense and special teams. We want to have those most reps on our team then any other team in the country. We believe practice makes perfect and if we can practice what we want to do enough, we think everything will be alright.”

LA Batchelor: “With the team consisting of more freshmen then anything else, do you change your philosophy or implement anything new on offense and defense to help the freshmen understand what you are trying to accomplish and help them along?”

Coach Bailey: “The only change that we one to do is probably be more simple we’re we are not trying to give the freshmen too many things to do. I think some instances last year, we had young men trying to do too many things but now they know our system much better, they’ve become acclamated to it, it’s part of their psychy now and we think they can perform much better however we must be sure we dont’t pile on too much info.”

LA Batchelor: “I know your coaching record speaks for itself but as I said earlier, the school has a history of losing football games(coming into his first year last year, the school won only 70 games in their history) so what did you have to say or do to get the school alumn, the fans, the players, staff and others to buy into what you were and are trying to accomplish?”

Coach Bailey: “We are trying to build and establish a situation that is a family atmosphere so everyone will feel apart of the team, they can identify with the team and they feel close to us and we feel close to them. We are trying to do certain teams during the year that shows that we are more than one dimensional. We want to be football sound and football successful but we want to also be successful in the classroom and we’ve got to be successful in helping our young people in making good decisions in which can save their lives.”

LA Batchelor: “What do you say to your crtics that say you can’t make this work or turn it around?”

Coach Bailey: “You really don’t deal with them. You build on your strengths and your supporters and you circumvent your weaknesses and your negatives. We can’t get tied up in that. If they have a problem, that’s their problem and they will have to deal with it and they will have to live with it but as for us we are going to the mountain top. We can’t go for the mountain top and participate in the gutter at the same time. It’s impossible. So we just set our sites on the mountain top and this is where we think we are going, this is what we are working for and anybody that wants to do things in the gutter, they can do it with someone else because we will not be around.”

LA Batchelor: “Two part question: It must feel good to see all of the love and support at this function tonight and it also must make you feel really good to see some of your former players go on to play in the NFL and to be coaches too.”

Coach Bailey: “We don’t plan for that(making it to the NFL) but the caliber of player we get in every now and then doesn’t surprise us to know a kid has a future, a good future in the National Football League. It’s not something where we say let’s groom this kid to be in the NFL, when we recruit him, we try to improve his athletic ability, we try to improve him in the classroom, make sure he is graduated and if he graduates, he acheives more respect from the pro’s from everyone else and he is going to have a job whether he makes the NFL or not.”

LA Batchelor: “Your success surely helps recruiting.”

Coach Bailey: “No question about that, no question about it. Kids wanna be around winners. The winning habit recruits. It helps some kids because if they think they are winners in your program then they are tough to beat.”

LA Batchelor: “What is the vision for the program 5 or 10 years down the line?”

Coach Bailey: “We really want to be in competition with the championship next year. We think we are a couple of breaks from some of the top teams in the conference. If we get in the championship, we think we can win it.”

LA Batchelor: “Is that realism or is that positive thinking?”

Coach Bailey: “As a coach, it’s positive thinking. “We think we will be as good as anyone else and we are going to work hard.” We will give everything we got.”

LA Batchelor: “Final thoughts about the school and what you want people to know about the college?”

Coach Bailey: “Saint Pauls’ College are taking on the new enrichment programs and we want these programs to be considered real to the program and to society. We want to have our kid leave our campus and college to learn and know more than the average kid coming out in their capacity,will and intelligence. We want to have ability, skill and persoverace in turning our young people out into the mainstream of the community world and a world of abroad.

LA Batchelor: “Finally and more importantly, you are trying to ground break on a new and much larger facility. Can you expand onsite?

Coach Bailey: “Its something that we are working on and hope to have the ground breaking coming up soon. (sometime in june) It something that the school needed and was well deserved.”

Coach Willard Bailey, a portrait in classiness, professionalism, integrity, a winning tradition and a winning tradition. A far cry of wins on the field but winning the hearts, souls and minds of a school, people, and turning a losing culture into a winning atttitude.

NOTE: For more information on Coach Bailey, log on to www.saintpauls.edu.