A spiritual calling can be one of life’s most powerful forces. When Doug Barfield entered Clarke County High School in Grove Hill in the early 50’s, he had no idea where football would take him. But he would soon realize his calling was to coach, and few people have touched so many others with the class and humility of this southern gentleman.
An outstanding athlete at Grove Hill, Coach Barfield earned 11 letters for the Bulldogs. When Southern Miss offered a football scholarship, he jumped at it. He quarterbacked the South team to a win in the 1953 North-South All Star Game. By his senior year at Southern in 1956, he was starting quarterback and team captain on a good Eagles team that tied Alabama. Following graduation, he entered the U.S. Army before beginning his coaching career as an assistant back at Clarke County High School.
Coach Barfield felt his calling was coaching and by 1962 he was the head coach at UMS in Mobile. He spent three seasons there winning 25 games and 3 city championships before leaving to take the Andalusia job in 1965. His Bulldogs went 15-4-1 in two seasons. His next stop would be as assistant coach at Southern Miss, where his old college coach Thad “Pie” Vann was still in charge. Coach Vann was a military man and Coach Barfield learned military organization from his mentor.
In 1970 he was hired by Hootie Ingram to be the offensive coordinator at Clemson. But after two seasons he accepted an assistant’s job at Auburn. By 1974 he was the offensive coordinator for the Tigers, running the Houston Veer offense. When Coach Ralph Jordan retired at the end of the 1975 season, Doug Barfield was named the new head football coach at Auburn University.
He spent five seasons with the Tigers, going 29-25-1. His 1979 team went 8-3, beating Florida, Georgia and a good North Carolina State team. It took a last minute drive by national champion Alabama to beat the Tigers 25-18. After leaving Auburn, Coach Barfield served as an assistant briefly at Mississippi State before leaving college coaching.
He entered the business world and became a highly successful account executive with Diversified Products in Opelika from 1982 through 1986. But his next “calling” took him back home to Clarke County to run the family’s furniture business. There were other business opportunities but when the family sold the furniture store in the late 80’s another opportunity presented itself out of nowhere.
Coach Barfield had once lived in Conecuh County growing up and a friend reached out about possibly becoming the head coach at Hillcrest High School in Evergreen. The county was consolidating the four high schools and once again he was called to get back into high school coaching after 25 years. “It was like starting from scratch,” he said. “We had to bus players in for spring practice.” It was the high school news story of 1989 and reporters came from far and wide to write about the college coach trying to bring four high schools together into one for the first time. Somehow, he put managed to build a team and finished the season at 8-1. Always the most humble of coaches he praised everyone but himself. “If you have an ego problem, you probably couldn’t go back to high school,” he said.
Coach Barfield accepted an opportunity to return to Opelika the following year where he and his wife Betty had made many friends. He rebuilt the Opelika Bulldog program with a record of 40-19 in five campaigns and became one of the best 6A programs in the state.
Doug Barfield was one of the true good guys in coaching. Smart and tough, competitive but always humble. His coaching philosophy was evident in his actions. "Coaching needs quality people," he said. "Young people and those in the community constantly look to coaches to see what they do."
Retiring from coaching, Coach Barfield went on to return to UMS as athletic director, work for the Alabama High School Athletic Association as marketing director and also for Encore Rehabilitation.
And what an example he has been throughout his life. A lifelong Baptist, he has spent much of his adult life as a Sunday School teacher. "I like the Old Testament, especially the Proverbs," Coach Barfield said once in an interview. He mentioned specifically Proverbs 3:4-6. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." Now that is a pretty strong calling.
The Alabama Football Coaches Association is proud to present its Lifetime Achievement Award to Coach Doug Barfield.