High School Football

After former coach’s arrest, Columbia hires new football coach with two state titles

Greg Asbury stepped down as a high school football head coach in 2010 to take a break from the grind. Since then, he’s bided his time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to take over another program.

He believes he’s found it at Columbia.

Nampa’s school board officially hired Asbury as Columbia’s football coach Tuesday. Asbury, who led Parma to two state championships, takes over the program from Jon Helmandollar after a record-setting fall but a rocky offseason.

Helmandollar resigned in May after an Amber Alert investigation into his missing daughter. The child was found safe and turned over to the custody of health and welfare. Nampa Police have since arrested the former Boise State running back, and prosecutors charged him on suspicion of a misdemeanor for obstructing officers and a felony for illegally attempting to obtain prescription drugs.

“I’ve been kind of looking the last couple years for a good situation, something I felt good about,” Asbury said. “... When things kind of went south at Columbia with Jon and all that, I felt really bad for the kids. That was my first thought, what a traumatic thing. And I felt like maybe I could help this situation out.”

[Related: Affidavit claims former Columbia coach tried to illegally obtain drugs from wife]

Asbury, 60, owns a career record of 105-48 and has won eight league championships. Most recently, he built Parma into a 2A powerhouse. He inherited a team that was 2-6 the prior season, then went 35-7 in the next four years, winning three league titles, 26 consecutive games and back-to-back state championships in 2008 and 2009. Those were the last football state titles for a Canyon County team.

Asbury also won three Western Idaho Conference titles in four years at Homedale, reaching the 2A state finals in his first season in 1999 and the semifinals the next two.

Greg Asbury mug.jpg
Greg Asbury

He previously won league titles at California’s Atascadero and Arizona’s Page high schools. And he coached one year at Emmett in 2003, going 2-7, before leaving to become the athletic director at Parma.

Columbia has struggled on the football field since opening in 2006. Helmandollar led the Wildcats to a 6-5 record and their first playoff win last fall. It was just the second playoff appearance and third winning season in the program’s 13-year history.

But Asbury believes the program has the tools and facilities to challenge regularly. He even previously applied for the Wildcats coaching job in 2015, when the school hired Rich Davis instead.

“I have been really impressed with the kids we’ve got out there right now,” Asbury said. “They are working hard. We’ve got a lot of talent at the skill positions, as good or better as anywhere I’ve ever been.”

Asbury said he’s retained most of the previous coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Mark Haggard returns to run the defense while Asbury will lead the offense.

Asbury’s teams have traditionally run the option, but he said he has a lot of talent at the skill positions and a returning quarterback in Austin Collett he plans to lean on this fall.

“We are going to put the ball in the air,” he said. “I think it’s going to be wide open this year.”

Asbury said he’s not bothered by the late start at Columbia. The schemes, terminology and numbering for his offense don’t differ much from Helmandollar’s, and he said the team has picked it up quickly during summer practices this week.

“I’ve come in late to a number of programs, including Homedale and Atascadero, and we’ve never had a problem installing our schemes,” Asbury said. “Don’t get too wound up about 7-on-7 and having to win in the 7-on-7 league. You just coach your kids and get them ready for the fall. They’ve bought into that process, and that’s what’s been exciting.”

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