COLUMBIA — Charles “Chuck” Bobbitt, the former Columbia College softball coach who in the 1980s turned a fledgeling program into a perennial national championship contender in less than a decade, died Feb. 9 at his home in Ballwin. He was 81.
Bobbitt became Columbia College’s first head softball coach in 1984, when he spearheaded a program at a small school that, at the time, didn’t even have a field. He helped build a field on campus and worked for 11 seasons at the helm, during which he led the Cougars to 354 wins, six conference championships and five trips to the NAIA National Softball Tournament.
Columbia College was a four-time district champion, three-time bi-district champion and eight-time Top-25 team in the final rankings under Bobbitt, who was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2007.
Bobbitt stood out from his peers as a three-time District Coach of the Year who won Conference Coach of the Year honors more times than he did not, accumulating six of the awards in 11 years. But perhaps more impressive was how quickly he propelled his infant program onto a stage of national relevance.
The Cougars went just 3-10 in their first season as a softball team in 1984. The next year wasn’t much better as Columbia posted a 10-16 record. Wendy Spratt, who played under Bobbitt and succeeded him as coach, said Bobbitt’s vision of success included targeting great athletes who were also good students. After a few of these recruiting classes, Bobbitt’s teams began showing success on the field. The Cougars improved by 19 wins in 1986, and never finished less than 15 games over .500 again in Bobbitt’s tenure.
In 1989, only the program’s sixth season, Columbia College finished 58-5 and earned a No. 1 NAIA rank nationally.
Spratt said Bobbitt encouraged his players to work hard and get better every day. He was usually reserved, but could occasionally get fiery with umpires or his players when he expected more from them.
Charles Joseph Bobbitt was born in Steelville on September 24, 1932, to Charley and Katie Bobbitt. As a teenager he played basketball for Sullivan High School in Sullivan and then at William Jewel College in Liberty. He entered the army after college and then worked as a teacher at private and public schools in the St. Louis area before coming to Columbia.
Bobbitt retired from Columbia College in 1995, where he also served as the director of facilities.
He is survived by his wife Patricia, who asked that memorial donations be made to the "Chuck Bobbitt Softball Scholarship Fund," c/o Columbia College, 1001 Rogers St., Columbia, MO 65216.