Osceola High School spent little time searching for a replacement for the recently departed Jim Bird, naming Celebration High School AD Rick Tribit as the school’s new Athletic Director, effective immediately. Bird — the legendary wrestling coach who also saw the school become or remain state powers in football, basketball and baseball as the school’s AD – resigned last week to take a teaching position in the Florida Panhandle where they could be closer to their children.   

Tribit, who has spent the last five years as Athletic Director at Celebration, worked at Osceola from 2006-15 as an assistant athletics director and wrestling coach under Bird.  

“Coach Bird and Osceola High School have always had a special place in my heart and I am excited to go back,” Tribit said.  “I know I have some tremendously large shoes to fill, Coach Bird was an incredible athletic director.”

Under Tribit’s leadership, Celebration has built a solid athletic program of its own with multiple individual and team successes in recent years.  Often finishing on the lower half of race for the Orange Belt Conference All Sports Trophy for nearly two decades, Tribit had turned the fortune of the Storm around. In the recently completed 2021-22 school year, the Storm won OBC titles in boys’ swimming, competitive cheer, boys’ soccer, boys’ and girls’ tennis and boys’ volleyball this year and finished in second in six other sports to tally 152 team points and finish second to the Longhorns by just nine total points.

Although not part of the OBC Team Sport Trophy, football was also vastly improved under Tribit’s guidance.  Since its founding in 2003, the football team has had just one winning season.  Last year, despite playing is what was described as the toughest district in the state, the Storm tied the school record for wins in a season (7), which included a bowl game victory.  Tribit also oversaw numerous facilities improvements, including a state-of-the art synthetic turf at its stadium for football, lacrosse and soccer.

But it is the academic achievements of Celebration’s student athletes that Tribit said he was most proud of.  In 2021-22, Storm athletes combined for an overall grade point average of 3.405 – tying St. Cloud for the highest in the county and a share of the OBC Team Academic Award.  

“A lot of people have an incorrect perception that Celebration as a school full of entitled, spoiled rich kids and nothing is further from the truth,” Tribit said. “We are a very diverse school culturally, with many language barriers and economic issues.  We have been fortunate to put together an athletic staff that understands these issues and have put together a successful program, while working hard to insure academic success.”

He added that leaving Celebration was not an easy decision.  “Conner (Principal Conner Gilbert) is a great leader and I loved my time working with the Storm and our coaches.  I know under the guidance of Principal Gilbert, they will continue to build their athletic program.”

One of Tribit’s first orders of business will be to hire a new wrestling coach at Osceola.  Under Bird, the Kowboys have produced at least one individual state champion ever year for the last 16 seasons and had had 17 different wrestlers win 32 state titles.  With his long-time experience an both as assistant and head wrestling coach, Tribit is more than qualified to assume the dual role Bird had but stopped short of saying he would even become a candidate.ibity

“I will meet with the Johana (Osceola Principal Johana Santiago) and we will discuss what direction we want to go with the wrestling program,” Tribit said.  “At the end of the day, we will make the right decision for both the program and the athletes.  We certainly want to see the program to continue in the same path of tradition and success that Coach Bird built.”

Tribit, a UCF graduate, has a long history in both coaching and administration.   He stated his career as a substitute teacher and assistant wrestling/football coach at Lyman High in 1993, before moving to Oviedo as a wrestling coach and teacher for three years.  He took his first Athletic Director job and served as head wrestling coach at Winter Springs; before his long tenure at Osceola.  He moved to Sarasota High for one year to attend to his ailing mother, before moving back to Osceola County where he took a job as wrestling coach and teacher at St. Cloud for the 2016-17 year. Wanting to get back on the administration side, he applied and accepted the Athletics Director’s job at Celebration a year later.

As to his goals, Tribit said “That’s really the $25,000 question.  I never was one to try to fix something that wasn’t broken.   Right now we have a lot of programs that are competing at a high level. While Coach Bird and I have similar philosophies, we’re not the same person and I will always look to make improvements where possible.”