T his fall, Noble will be under the guidance of its sixth head coach in the last 10 years.

Usually, that's a bad sign.

Regardless of whether a coach is good or bad, when his teams lose, he usually leaves ? or is requested to ? after a bad season or two.

Make no mistake about it, Noble has had its share of bad seasons.

Since the first Bears stepped on the gridiron in the late 1960s (or early '70s, there's some dispute about when they started varsity football), Noble made it to the state playoffs only once until after turn of the century.

Not to rub it in, but at one time in the '90s, the Bears had one of the worst won-loss records among Oklahoma high schools ? in any class.

A lot of that decade's poor performance was due to the rapid expansion of the Noble Public School system. Almost every two years, when the Oklahoma Secondary School Athletic Association realigned its classes (based on enrollment) , Noble was pushed up a class.

That's not good for any school, especially one with no winning football tradition. And when that situation is compounded with an almost yearly change of coaches, the travails of trying to get on a winning track becomes even more difficult.

So, Noble has had numerous coaches come and go in the last decade.

But, there is another axiom that applies to the men and women who put their professional success in the hands of teenagers: Good coaches don't leave good programs ? unless it's a move to greener winning pastures.

Usually.

Today's Noble football teams are not those of the past.

Steve Barrett changed all that when he moved from an assistant at Norman North to take over the Noble program in 2002.

After his arrival, all the Bears have done is claw out a record of 22-12 and qualify for the playoffs for the last three years.

Considering Noble's past, Barrett's teams performed ... well ... historically.

Not too many seasons ago, it was common to drive into the parking lot adjacent to the Noble football field just minutes before kickoff and get a close space.

That hasn't been the case recently. The last few years, it's been 'get there early' or 'get ready to walk.'

Barrett won't be handling the Bears this season, however.

No, he hasn't gone on to greener pastures, although with his record he probably could have. He is still at Noble. He has just moved up the academic ladder, as in an assistant principal.

Why the change?

"It was a hard decision," Barrett said. "I wanted to do what's best for both my family and the program and (if I was going to get out of coaching), I thought this was a good year to do it. It would be different is I was heading out somewhere but I'm staying here. If they need me, I'll be around."

It's not like Barrett is leaving the talent cupboard bare either. The Bears will return an almost-intact offensive backfield along with some lineman that he terms "some of the biggest and strongest I've ever coached."

The Noble football reins are now in the hands of Ray Crawley, and he is not a stranger to the playoffs. As the defensive coordinator at Westmoore, he has a proven track record.

"I wouldn't trade anything for the last three years. I've loved every minute of it," said Barrett, and then added with a rueful chuckle, "well, except for a couple of games.

"And I know Ray. He's a great coach. He'll keep the momentum going."

That's a good sign. Always.



Fogle will give Little Axe a shot

One other local football vacancy has apparently been filled. Although not confirmed by anyone in the Little Axe administration, it has been reported by several sources that Anthony Fogle will take over the beleaguered program.

In his college days, Fogle was a four-year letterman as a defensive back for Oklahoma from 1993 to '96. Since then, he has been in several positions, including assisting at Oklahoma City metro teams and hosting a sports talk on Norman's KREF-AM radio station.

Fogle will have to do more than talk to be a winner at his new post. Little Axe has won only one game in the last seven years.



Enfield back on the field at Mustang

Another coaching change involves Shannon Enfield, who started the Norman North baseball program and led the Timberwolves until his resignation after the 2004 season.

After a year's absence on the high school scene, Enfield will be back in the dugout next season as an assistant at Mustang.

Some might consider it a strange move, but one has to know the background. I.e., the veteran head coach will be reuniting with Tony Evans, who was formerly his assistant at North.

Lynn Garnand 366-3537 lgarnand@normant

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