It seemed it was only a matter of time before Charley North went into the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
It finally came to be, with his induction last Sunday.
The coach who is best known for his work on Barry Switzer's staff at Oklahoma has also coached at Arkansas, Alabama, Texas A&M and TCU on the college level. But his college years were bookended by years of work on Oklahoma high school fields, from his alma mater, Wagoner, to McAlester, Tecumseh, Dibble and lastly as a volunteer assistant at Norman High, where he got the chance to coach his grandson.
Officially retired after more than four decades of coaching, North is making sure that he gets to enjoy all the time he can with his family now.
I'm trying to catch up on family time now. I don't know that you can ever catch up, but one good thing about the coaches I've worked for, especially Dennis Franchione, if I wanted to take my family with me to bowl games, they could go. They got to travel a lot, even my daughter and my son-in-law. But I missed a lot of family time, and in coaching, you're gonna do that. It's not an 8-to-5 job. It ends up being a 16-hour-a-day deal, and you have to make sure you don't short your family or take anything away from them.
I have a great wife, and that's been really important. We've been married 49 years. Sharon has been super in supporting me and raising my daughter, Charla. She and my wife are almost like sisters, not mother-daughter. I have a great family, and that's what it's all about.
I played for two men who were very influential in my life, Don Rieberer, who was my head coach at Wagoner High School, and Joe Etheridge was the assistant with Don. One of the reasons I wanted to coach was because I patterned myself after them. At that time in my life, they were the mentors in my life and I knew I wanted to coach because of them. They're both 81 and they were both at my Hall of Fame induction. Having them there, and my family and a lot of people I coached and coached with, it meant everything in the world to me.
I was at OU for 16 years with Switzer and Gary Gibbs. When I came there in 1978, they had already achieved a lot of success under coach Switzer. Through my time there, I went through the good, the bad and the ugly.
The wins and losses, and recruiting good kids and seeing them go on to be successful on the pro level, and seeing them go on to be successful in their life — that was the good part of it.
The bad part was when that stuff hit and we had probation problems with a couple kids that didn't know how to behave or take care of business the way they should have.
The ugly part of it was knowing that Coach Switzer had to get out before he needed to. He wasn't finished. He could have gone on and would probably still be coaching there, had some of those things not happened. He could have still been winning football games. He was a great man and a great coach, and there was nothing he wouldn't do for his players and his staff.
Through the salaries and because the coaches are so visible now, it's really different. Today, you can't do anything outside your profession in a recreational way without someone knowing about it, because of all the technology, Facebook and things. I think that has hurt the game. Sometimes, these guys need a chance to go blow off some steam and have a family life.
We all want to have an opportunity to get exposure, but we don't want to expose ourselves. I think that's what has happened.
When I was at TCU, we had a policy manual that was 78 pages long, talking about what's good, what's bad, what to avoid and not get involved with. By the time I finished working for (Franchione) at Texas A&M, that manual was up to 220 pages, because of Facebook and all of those things out there that create additional exposure for kids and coaches.
The kids and the coaches that you work with are the most important thing that matters in coaching. The kids I coached in high school and college, I still see them quite often, I still hear from them. We communicate, and I feel the guys that played for me are an extension of my family. We were down-to-earth enough and had a sincere love for those guys that they really feel like they're a part of your family. I think that's why I coached, because I really enjoyed the young men that I coached, and the coaches I worked with.
I don't think I had a year that I coached that I regret. I think there was something good that I took from every year I was able to coach, and when you do that, the profession is worthwhile.