High School Football

Fellow coaches praise Hall of Famer Joe Turbeville, who passed away

Former Spring Valley and Irmo football coach Joe Turbeville was part of the inaugural class of the South Carolina Football Coaches Hall of Fame. He passed away on Monday.
Former Spring Valley and Irmo football coach Joe Turbeville was part of the inaugural class of the South Carolina Football Coaches Hall of Fame. He passed away on Monday. gmelendez@thestate.com

Airport coach Kirk Burnett learned many things being around Joe Turbeville, but two things he remembered most were his leadership abilities and work ethic.

Those two characteristics helped Turbeville become one of the winningest high school football coaches in South Carolina.

Turbeville, 74, died Monday at Lexington Medical Center after a battle with lymphoma.

"He just had such a constant work ethic," said Burnett, who got his first coaching job under Turbeville at Irmo from 1989-93. "It didn’t matter how bad or how well you did on Friday. He was back in his office by sunrise on Saturday. And no matter how many titles he had won, everything was new and fresh.

"He was a great leader. He let his coaches coach, but you knew who the head man was. And he was just so highly respected. There was never a black mark on him whether he was a coach or athletic director."

Turbeville coached 28 seasons at Winnsboro, Spring Valley and Irmo and appeared in nine state championship games, winning five of them. He went 239-99 during his coaching tenure and was part of the inaugural class of the South Carolina Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2014.

Turbeville was an assistant and head coach in the Shrine Bowl and North-South All-Star football games and also was inducted into the SC Athletic Administrators Association in 2011.

Turbeville won championships in three different decades. He won his first state title at Winnsboro in 1968 and final one at Irmo in 1980.

Turbeville led Spring Valley to three straight titles from 1973-75. After leaving Spring Valley in 1978, he landed at Irmo and led the Yellow Jackets to three state championship appearances.

Turbeville’s 1980 championship team was the last true Class 4A championship squad before the classification split into two divisions the following year.

Former Batesburg-Leesville and Spring Valley coach Jerry Brown, who played and coached for Turbeville, said his former coach’s ability to adapt was a key to his success.

"He was always on the cutting edge. He was ahead of his time, in other words, as far as offensively and organization-wise," Brown told The State in 2014. "He was always a student of the game and was always willing to try, look at different things and change, whereas a lot of coaches like their system more than they like the players.

"He adjusted his system to the players. He was always adapting and changing the offense and other aspects."

Turbeville, a Mullins native, deflected his credit back to his players.

"The only secret I had about being a good coach was the better players you have, the better coach you are," he said during an interview in 2014. "That was it. I’ve never heard of anybody winning a state championship with bad players. We tried to do some things to get them a little stronger and tougher and motivate them, but back then we had good players."

Burnett said he still uses things he learned from Turbeville with his teams at Airport. He also appreciated when Turbeville would stop by practice or come to a game, something he did regularly with his former coaches and players when he retired from coaching in the mid-1990s.

Before getting into coaching, Turbeville was a standout offensive guard at The Citadel from 1960-62. He was part of the Bulldogs’ teams that won the Tangerine Bowl and first Southern Conference championship.

Turbeville was inducted into The Citadel Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.

Service details are pending.

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