Eddie Lang, Kerry Hibbitts, Jeff Crider and Terry Barrington brought unprecedented stability and success to Wylie’s athletic program for more than three decades. Coupled with their boss Hugh Sandifer, that’s five. Wylie coaches who were together at the same school for 29 years.
“We might have set some kind of record in Texas,” Crider said. “We were always good about putting up with each other. It’s kind of like being married.”
Sandifer came to Wylie in 1979 and became athletic director in 1985. Crider joined the staff in 1982; Hibbitts in 1983; Lang in 1985, and Barrington in 1986. Sandifer went into the Hall of Honor last year; the other four coaches will be inducted as a group during this year’s Homecoming game.
Together the five coaches turned Wylie’s football program into a perennial playoff team, won a football state championship, had a huge impact on many of the school’s other sports programs and influenced generations of Wylie students.
According to Crider, the situation at Wylie was the perfect storm.
“It started with Coach Sandifer and how he handled the kids and how they responded to him,” Crider said. “We had a good group of coaches who knew their Xs and Os. We had good kids. There weren’t a lot of external problems. We had a good fan base.”
All four of the Wylie coaches say they stayed at Wylie because of Sandifer’s leadership, their respect for each other and a realization that what they had at Wylie was special.
“We had a great situation at Wylie,” Barrington said. “I didn’t see a point in moving. There was so much stability.”
He said the three coaches that are going into the Hall of Honor with him became his best friends.
“We worked together every day. We had offseason together,” Barrington said. “For a quarter of a century, I saw those guys on a daily basis. We did thousands of loads of laundry and marked lines on the field. It was a family atmosphere. We helped raise each other’s kids. It was a pretty tight group.”
Barrington grew up in Throckmorton where he played football, basketball, ran track and played golf. He played football at ACU.
He started his Wylie career at the Junior High coaching 7th-grade football, basketball and track. When he moved to the high school, he became special teams’ coordinator for the football team and also coached the safeties, which is the position he played at ACU.
He later became the head golf coach.
“Wylie had a very successful golf program,” he said. “I just tried
to keep it going.”
During one stretch of his tenure as golf coach, both the boys and girls’ teams qualified for state five years in a row, with one student winning an individual state championship and his teams bringing home several silver medals.
He coached for 29 years before retiring in 2015 – he was the last of the four coaches to arrive at Wylie and the first to retire.
“I was fortunate to get to coach with those guys the whole time,” he said. “Everything we did seemed to have a lot of success. Coach Sandifer just instilled some things in his coaches. One of them was for this senior class, this is the most important season. So it’s the most important year you’ve ever coached.”
Barrington and his wife Angela have a daughter Savannah, who graduated from Wylie in 2012.
Crider grew up in Breckenridge where he still holds the boys’ basketball scoring record. He graduated from ACU in 1981 and came to work at Wylie in 1982.
He started out coaching freshman football, basketball and helping with track, but moved the next year to JV football, freshman basketball and coached defensive ends for the varsity.
In 1986, Coach Sandifer moved Crider to the press box during football games. Wearing headphones, he became Sandifer’s eyes and ears during games, helping on the offensive side of the ball. He did that for 32 years, while continuing to coach the JV and varsity running backs and defensive ends.
He helped with basketball some until 2002 but after that he went
“I was better at playing basketball, but I always enjoyed coaching football more,” he said.
He said several games were important in Wylie’s progression to becoming a state powerhouse. One was a game against Ballinger, where Wylie was down 28-0 before coming back and winning the game 42-41.
“Over half the crowd left the game after the first quarter,” he said. “We beat them in the last few seconds of the game 42-41. That was kind of a big deal and that kind of really got us going.”
Then in 1994, the Bulldogs made the state semifinals.
“That was another stepping stone,” Crider said. “We were regular playoff contenders after that.”
In 2000, the team went 14-0 and lost in the state championship game, before finally winning the state championship in 2004. The football team had several state semifinal appearances in those years.
Crider retired in 2018 after 36 years at Wylie. He and his wife Tenny have a daughter Shannon Davis.
Lang grew up in Rotan, where he won a state championship in track as a freshman and a state championship in football as a sophomore. He had a 74-year touchdown run in the state football championship game.
He played football his freshman and sophomore years at Texas Tech and ran track his freshman year. After graduating in 1970, he coached in numerous locations before finding a permanent home at Wylie in 1985.
He coached the defensive line during football season and was head boys’ track coach in the spring. Lang has had numerous highlights to his coaching career – the track team won a state championship in 2001 and in 2012, Lang was named State Coach of the Year for boys’ track and field in Texas by the National Federation of High School Coaches Association.
He said the longevity that Wylie had with its coaches was unheard of in sports.
“That’s really rare,” he said. “We argued some, but there was not any time that we got mad at each other. Coach Sandifer had the final say.
They are all like family. We had a lot of fun with each other.”
He said one reason that the staff was so successful is that they tailored their game plan toward what the kids did best rather than trying to force kids into their system.
“We took the kids we had and used them to their best advantage and made them think they could play better than what they thought they could play,” he said. “Everybody was there to help the kids be better.”
Lang retired in 2017 after 32 years at Wylie and 49 years total in coaching. His wife, Donna, is secretary at the Early Childhood Campus, and they have two children Sha Lang and Maxi Kirk.
Hibbitts grew up in Graham, where he played baseball, football and ran track. He also played football and ran track at McMurry. After graduating in 1978, he coached at Winters and Stamford before taking a year off from coaching.
In 1983, he took a job as the only Junior High coach at Wylie, coaching all sports. A year later, he moved to the high school to coach the offensive line and assist in track. In 1991, he became the girls’ track coach. He also helped Crider with JV football for more than 30 years.
He said the relationship with his fellow coaches was special.
“We were kind of like brothers,” he said. “We were around each other more than our families. It was a unique situation.”
He said one reason the coaches got along so well is because no one worried about getting the credit.
“Whenever we went to work, everybody left their egos at the door,” he said. “When we had disagreements, there was never any arguments. We just worked it out for the betterment of the team.”
He said that each coach had his job to do in the football program, but each was also willing to help the other if needed.
“We all had so much confidence and trust in one another,” he said. “Not all staffs are like that.”
Hibbitts said they had a great relationship with the community as well.
“It just goes to show you the type of relationship Coach Sandifer built with the community,” he said. “I’m thrilled that the community had the confidence in us to keep us around.”
Hibbitts’ track teams won 25 district championships, seven regional championships and twice placed in the top three at state. He also led many, many girls to individual awards on the track, including several who won state championships.
Hibbitts’ wife Susan was the longtime librarian at the high school before retiring with him in 2019. They have two children, daughter Kara, a 2001 Wylie grad, and son Rogan, a 2012 Wylie grad.