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Bleeding black and gold: The Oakleys move on to the next chapter of their lives | Sports

Ron and Leah Oakley are stepping down from Ron’s coaching and teaching career after almost 50 years in Athens City Schools as he decides to retire.

To be precise, Ron spent 46 years in the school’s teaching and coaching system, while Leah spent 24 years in Athens.

In addition, she was a member of the historic cheerleading squad when she attended Athens High School.

“I was a cheerleader in 1975 when we won the state championship,” Leah said. “My veins bleed black and gold.”

She talks about Ron’s journey through various sports at different levels of Athens city schools, saying, “He coached basketball. He coached basketball in high school, coached freshman basketball, in high school, and then football.”

Ron added that he looks back on the stops in his career.

“I played basketball for 25 years, mostly in high school, from time to time I came and helped with the freshman team, and then Venard Hendrix and I helped coach (Jerry) Todd,” Ron said. “Then, in 2001, I was playing basketball, we were in the middle of the season, and then the head football coach opened up. It stayed open for a while, we talked about it, and our son fell in love with football. When no one took the job… in 2001 it was football (still on the rise), so I took it. We enjoyed it so much that the first year I retired from basketball and just devoted (full time to football).”

According to Oakley, they made it to the state’s Final Four in their first year with Ron coaching boys’ football, which led to them playing in the Final Four 4 times in total.

“We had some early success and it grew from there,” said Ron.

During their time in athletics in Athens, Oakley has seen AHS move into a Grade 6A school, but the community still looks after each other as if they were a small town.

This includes their first-class turf football field, which they share with the football team.

Although football is Alabama’s most popular sport, the Oakleys both say they never considered football an afterthought. They credit head football coach Cody Gross for making something as simple as football lines painted on the turf to make life easier for the football team.

According to Leah, “not all football coaches would do that. Cody was amazing.”

The path along this path has not been without problems.

“The football budget was $2,000 negative. (Principal Chris) Bolin said to Ron, “You can’t even buy a pair of socks until you get them out of the hole.” Parents and this community rallied around this program. This program has never needed anything because of the parents.”

Ron came to Athens via the University of Alabama and West End High School, formerly out of Birmingham.

“Leah’s father was the only name I knew in Athens,” said Ron.

It was the College of Athens that gave him a certificate of education to help his coaching career.

“I taught math in high school, coached basketball, and in the evening I went to Athens College to get my certificate.”

He will complete a master’s degree in counseling from UNA and become a school counselor for the last 20 years of his teaching career.

After 40 years of teaching, he retired in 2016 to work part-time and focus on six additional years of coaching.

However, this is not a farewell, but simply a reversal of roles. Both Ron and Leah intend to continue to support Athenian athletics and science.

“I can’t imagine myself without participating in the football program,” Leah said. “The last game (of Ron’s career) nearly killed me. I thought I could be emotional, but I didn’t know that I would sob like an ugly scream.”

While many people have come and gone over the course of his career, current Athens High School Athletic Director Linda Moore understands the impact people like Ron have had on their athletic programs for the better.

“We are so grateful to coach Ron Oakley for his decades of dedication to Athens football. Coach Oakley is one of the most sincere people I have ever met,” Moore said. “He cares about his players both on and off the pitch.”

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