DALTON — Dalton has lost a legend.
Former Dalton High School football coach Billie J. McFarren died early Thursday morning at age 94.
“He has lived a full, productive life and you mourn his passing, but you just have to celebrate how he lived,” son Mike McFarren said. “I hope that what people remember, if they don’t already know, is that he didn’t just coach sports, he used sports to coach life.”
Billie McFarren, a 1942 Dalton graduate, coached the Bulldogs for 21 seasons from 1954-74. In his time at the helm of the football program, his teams won more than 70% of their games, going a combined 131-52-4 to go along with nine Wayne County League titles.
“The intensity of his competitiveness came through, without question, but it was always in an effort to inspire or move someone to become a better person,” Mike McFarren said. “He insisted that his athletes were the best school citizens, that their behavior in school was exemplary. He insisted that sports were not the most important thing in life, but that other people were.”
The Dalton High School football field is named McFarren Field after the legendary coach. Billie McFarren is an inducted member of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Wayne County Sports Hall of Fame.
McFarren left a strong coaching tree, as his sons and grandsons also coached high school sports. His grandson, Zach, is the current head softball coach at Dalton and previously served as the school’s baseball coach for three seasons.
“I think that the biggest thing I took away from his coaching was that it wasn’t necessarily about football as much as it was about relationships,” Zach McFarren said. “I kind of have that view myself. I do enjoy the sports, but I want to teach the young men and the young ladies just about the value of being a stand-up person, the value of knowing that I care for them, and I think that that goes a long way, further than winning or losing a game.”
After he graduated from Dalton, Billie McFarren served in the Army, where he attended Oklahoma A&M for specialized training before being sent to Europe. In his time overseas, he was injured and was left paralyzed for 25 days, ending any chances of playing football again.
In 1951, he graduated from the College of Wooster and later took an assistant coaching job at David Anderson High School in Lisbon. He coached there until 1954, when he accepted the head coaching job at Dalton. After his 21 seasons with the Bulldogs, he stayed at the school as its principal.