Stevens: Bob Paroli has coached high school football 55 years and the end isn’t in sight

tstevens@newsobserver.comSeptember 3, 2012 


paroli1.sp.070997.cll -- Bob Paroli, Fayetteville Byrd coach, has been the dean of the NC's high school coaches for 40 years.


Bob Paroli has coached 55 years and announced last week that he won’t return as coach at Fayetteville Seventy-First High next season. He doesn’t plan on retiring, but already has submitted his letter of resignation.

Paroli, 81, is No. 2 on the all-time football coaching-wins list in North Carolina, with 403 victories. Both Paroli and retired state leader Jack Holley, who has 410 wins and is best known for his teams at Wallace-Rose Hill, are among the top 10 in the country.

Holley’s mark seems safe this year; this doesn’t appear to be a great Seventy-First team. The Falcons dropped their opener to Scotland County 35-13 and lost to Wilmington Hoggard 38-6 and to Hoke County 35-20 the past two weeks.

“We’re young,” Paroli said. “It’s a good bunch of boys, but we’re starting five sophomores in the offensive line There are 17 sophomores and two ninth-graders on the varsity. They are going to be really good players, but they aren’t now.”

There is something neat about an 81-year-old coach who is in his 55th year on the sidelines thinking about building for the future. But Paroli has always thought of himself as a builder of young men.

$2,799 a year

Paroli said he loves coaching high school football just as much as he ever has since the late Glenn Nixon, the former Clayton High coach, helped Paroli get his first coaching job.

Nixon came to N.C. State from New York to play football. Paroli, another New Yorker, joined the Wolfpack in 1951.

“I was the kid next door in the old Riddick dorm at State,” Paroli said. “We had some great times.”

Nixon was coaching high school football at Beaulaville a few years later and stopped at Tarts Brothers Service Station in Benson to fill up for a trip to Raleigh. At the gas pump, he learned Benson High needed a football coach.

“I was living in Garner then, but I was going to move because I had just taken a job as the head of the recreation department in Greensboro,” Paroli recalled. “But then Glenn called.

“I jumped at the chance to coach. I would have made a lot more lot money in Greensboro, but I was happy to get into coaching. I was making $2,799 a year as a teacher and got a coaching supplement of $810 for coaching football, girls’ basketball and junior varsity baseball.”

Most of Paroli’s victories came at Fayetteville Byrd High from 1980 until 2005. He coached the Eagles to five state 4-A championship games, but his only state championship came in 2008, when Paroli coached Seventy-First to a 28-7 win against Byrd in the title game.

How to succeed

Paroli said he learned long ago that you have to love the kids more than you love the game if you’re going to be a successful high school coach.

“The kids know why you are out there,” he said. “They know if you really care about them. If you do, they’ll do anything for you.”

The bonds with the players is what has brought Paroli back each year.

“The only reason I do it is the kids. You could write a book just on how they walk into the dressing room before practice. They’ve always got something going on,” he said.

“The thing I enjoy most is watching the young men develop. When they are juniors and seniors I really like to sit around with them and laugh about some of the things they did as sophomores and freshmen.

“All high school athletics are good, but I think football comes the closest to preparing kids for life. Watching the kids develop and seeing them later in life are the best parts of my job.”

Paroli coached at Benson for six years, at New York Military for six years, Wilson Fike for five years, Burlington Cummings for four years, Byrd for 25 years and Seventy First for eight years.

His youngest son Michael has coached with him for the past 30 years.

“He does most of the work,” Paroli said. “It has been a wonderful thing. I probably wouldn’t be coaching if it wasn’t for him. It is great to go to work every day and spend time with your son.”

Stevens: 919-829-8910

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