David Barnes left the sidelines at Daviess County High School nearly 13 years ago, but his legacy continues to guide local programs today. Barnes, who was the Caldwell County High School football coach, died Saturday at the age of 59.
Barnes spent the first 22 years of his coaching career at Daviess County — the final 13 as head coach — before heading to his alma matter of Caldwell County in 2006. While his team’s on-field performance speaks for itself, his off-the-field antics and personality are what most people remember about him.
Barnes’s stint at Daviess County included five trips to the playoffs, two city-county championships, two district titles and 62 victories – the most for any Panther head coach.
Current Panthers head coach Matt Brannon most remembers him as a mentor, a teacher and a friend.
“Coach (Barnes) was a great mentor to me,” Brannon said. “He allowed me to learn from one of the best for two years.”
Everything about Barnes was far from typical. As a science teacher, he fostered relationships with everyone in the building. He made constant efforts to share the game of football with his coaching colleagues, even those of rival schools just a mile down the road. He also created a brand of high-flying football unbeknownst to high school programs, especially in this area.
“He was not your ordinary football coach. He was very involved and a big part of the school,” Brannon said. “Twenty years later, and the kids we coached together still remind me of his candid sense of humor and quick wit. He truly cared about the individual.”
John Edge, who served for years as head coach at Owensboro Catholic before taking the same position South Spencer, also spoke of fond memories with Barnes.
“Coach [Barnes] was an advocate for all kids and all schools,” Edge said. “He didn’t care where they went to school; he wanted to see them all succeed. I’ve never heard anyone speak negatively about him.”
Barnes initially appealed to Brannon, Edge and many other local coaches because of his high-powered offensive scheme, but his genuine personality and desire to help others allowed them to form a bond they can treasure for a lifetime.
Barnes’ old high school teammate at Caldwell County, Tony Franklin, created an offensive system at the college level that transcended the game. Franklin was the offensive coordinator at the University of Kentucky under Hal Mumme in the early 2000s when former NFL standout Tim Couch was the quarterback. Barnes introduced the ‘The Tony Franklin System’ to the Kentucky high school gridiron.
With Barnes’ program at DC serving as one of the first test groups, over 351 high school and college programs nationwide have since implemented the system. Edge was fortunate that Barnes agreed to introduce him to Franklin and the system so he could begin the installation process at Catholic.
“I wanted to start running the system and he encouraged Tony to let me get involved,” Edge said. “It allowed me to form a connection with several local and national coaches alike.”
“When (Franklin) would host clinics, David and I would sit together and we would know exactly what he was going to say next, but we still wrote it down,” Edge said. “That’s how we learned, by writing it down, but the best part of those clinic trips was the comradery formed among coaches.”
Franklin’s coordinating career also includes stints at Auburn, Troy, California, Louisiana Tech, and his current position at Middle Tennessee. In between college jobs, Franklin spent one season as an offensive coordinator at Owensboro Catholic when the Aces reached the state championship. Both Edge and Brannon continue to use Franklin’s system as their framework today.
The bond between the coaches was so tight that both Brannon and Edge exchanged text messages with Barnes the Friday before his death. It was a tradition that on every game day, members of their coaching alliance would exchange text messages – Barnes was generally the ringleader.
“We formed a great connection,” Edge said. “He never took a day off, he took care of people, even his last moments – he was concerned about me and my program.”
Said Brannon: “He was a great man and I can’t thank him enough. He’s impacted so many and left a legacy that will be tough to rival.”