Long-Time UAM Football Coach Tommy Barnes Dies

 Tommy Barnes

Tommy Barnes 

Courtesy of
Media Services

MONTICELLO — The winningest football coach in University of Arkansas at Monticello history has lost a long-running battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

   Tommy Barnes, who coached more seasons and won more games than any coach in UAM history, died Thursday, March 7 at Drew Memorial Hospital in Monticello.  He was 61.

   Barnes came to UAM in 1980 as an assistant coach following a highly successful career at Montrose Academy, where he compiled a combined junior and senior high school record of 98-14-4. He became UAM’s 20th head football coach following the 1984 season and for the next 12 years guided the Boll Weevils to 69 wins, 53 losses and one tie. His 1988 and 1993 squads reached the NAIA Division I playoffs and his teams were ranked in the final NAIA Top 25 six times.

   His 1993 team won the championship of the old Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference and his ’88 squad, quarterbacked by current Razorback Foundation Executive Director Sean Rochelle, is the only team in school history to win 10 games in a season.

   “We all have defining moments in our lives and there are usually a variety of people associated with them,” said Rochelle in a statement. “Other than my mother, I can think of no one who was part of more of those moments for me than Coach Barnes. He provided me with a scholarship so I could attend school, offered me my first full-time job when he brought me back to UAM to join his staff and was always in my corner as I moved forward in life. He was an amazing father, a devoted husband, a wise mentor, a dedicated Christian. I am grateful that he was my coach, and more importantly, my friend. I love Coach Barnes.”

   Barnes won at UAM despite having fewer scholarships, a smaller staff and facilities that at the time lagged far behind his competition.

   “I have the utmost respect for Tommy Barnes as a football coach and what he accomplished at UAM,” said Harold Horton, former Central Arkansas coach whose teams dominated the AIC in the 1980s. “Tommy was a competitor and that’s the way his teams played. They were hard to beat. He didn’t have the resources that a lot of schools had at that time, but he made the most of what he had.”

   A native of Fordyce, Barnes was a three-year letterman for UAM (then Arkansas A&M) from 1969-71, rushing for 1,688 yards as a wishbone fullback.

   Barnes is survived by his mother, Mary Barnes of Fordyce, his wife of 42 years, Kookie, son Grant, daughter-in-law Laci, and grandson, Tucker, all of Monticello, and brothers David Barnes of Fordyce and Seth Barnes of Batesville.

   Funeral arrangements are pending.

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