Log in Newsletter

Longtime football Coach Bob Paroli dies at 91

The retired coach amassed 403 victories in a 55-year career that included tenures at Douglas Byrd and Seventy-First, including the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4-A championship in 2008.


Bob Paroli, who built a football coaching legacy in Cumberland County and the state that set him apart from most of his peers, died Monday. 

 He was 91.  

 A veteran of 55 years as a head coach, Coach Paroli spent much of his career in Cumberland County, leading Douglas Byrd High School to dominance of county football in the 1990s and finally winning an elusive state title after moving to nearby Seventy-First High School at the end of his career. 

 Coach Paroli ended with 403 wins, which for a time ranked him as the winningest high school football coach in the state until he was later passed by another veteran coach, Jack Holley, who spent most of his coaching career at Tabor City High School. 

 Coach Paroli came to Douglas Byrd in 1980, after successful coaching stops at Wilson Fike High School and Burlington Cummings High School in Alamance County. He would build the Eagle program into the gold standard for football in Cumberland County. From 1995-99, Coach Paroli’s Byrd teams made the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4-A championship game four out of five times, finishing as state runner-up each of those years.  

 It was not until his 25 years at Douglas Byrd ended and Coach Paroli went to rival Seventy-First that he finally earned a state championship. Ironically, it came in 2008 against the Douglas Byrd program he had built, as he led Seventy-First to a 28-7 victory in the 4-A championship game.  

 James Hopper was the star of that game for the Falcons, rushing for 192 yards and scoring all four touchdowns. Mr. Hopper, now a local martial arts instructor, said every day with Coach Paroli was about doing things right on and off the field. 

  “He was all about toughness,” Mr. Hopper said. “If you could out-tough the opponent and break their will, you could win the football game.” 

 ‘Doing everything exactly right’ 

 In addition to his success as a coach, Coach Paroli also sent numerous athletes off to the college and the professional ranks. Brad Edwards and Donnell Woolford were among many of Coach Paroli’s more prolific athletes.  

 Mr. Edwards played at the University of South Carolina and spent his best years in the NFL with the former Washington Redskins, where he earned a Super Bowl ring. Mr. Woolford played at Clemson and later with the Chicago Bears. 

 Mr. Edwards, now the athletic director at George Mason University, remembers Coach Paroli for his emphasis on perfection.  

 “He was obsessed with doing everything at a high level,” Mr. Edwards said. “Practicing at game speed. Doing everything exactly right.” 

 Mr. Edwards said Coach Paroli was tough when he needed to be, but also knew the right time to put an arm around a player’s shoulder and offer a smile. 

 “He could push you in just the right way and be demanding without ever being demeaning,” he said. 

 It will be hard to measure, Mr. Edwards said, how many lives Coach Paroli had an impact on. 

 “How many people did he pick up in his truck and cart to practice, gave them something to do and a purpose,” Mr. Edwards said. “He really took care of a lot of people.” 

 Coaching colleagues remember 

 Former Seventy-First and South View coach Bobby Poss was one of Coach Paroli’s biggest competitors during his time in Cumberland County.  

 “When Bob Paroli showed up at Douglas Byrd, he elevated the competition for everybody,” Mr. Poss said. “Immediately, I was impressed with the way he took charge of the Byrd program. I think he just made everybody around that league a lot better.” 

 Mr. Poss said it’s unlikely any coach will reach Coach Paroli’s level of longevity. 

 “So many young coaches are just counting the days until they hit 30 (years),” Mr. Poss said. “Bob didn’t have any hobbies. His hobby was coaching football. He just really enjoyed it.’’ 

 Another contemporary of Coach Paroli was John Daskal, who coached at Reid Ross and Terry Sanford. The two first met when they both played football at N.C. State. Mr. Daskal once hitched a ride to Fayetteville with Coach Paroli, when Coach Paroli was driving to Dillon, South Carolina, to marry his wife Billie. Billie Paroli was 93 when she died March 18, 2021. 

 Mr. Daskal said Coach Paroli brought something else to local football, which was an emphasis on lifting weights. 

 “He felt if you got bigger, stronger, faster he could outmuscle you,” Mr. Daskal said. “And he did.” 

 Mr. Daskal said Coach Paroli’s coaching philosophy was to keep things simple and not focus on a thick playbook but emphasize perfecting the execution of a handful of offensive and defensive sets.  

 “It didn’t make any difference what kind of defense you put up,” Mr. Daskal said. “He’d run it over and over again.’’ 

 The Byrd way 

 Curtis Frye was an assistant on Coach Paroli’s first Byrd coaching staff. He now serves as track and field coach at the University of South Carolina, where he has coached 60 NCAA champions and 500 NCAA All-Americans in 26 years. 

 Mr. Frye said Coach Paroli’s biggest asset was caring for people, with an emphasis on family. 

 “It was the Byrd way,” Mr. Frye said about Coach Paroli, who was inducted into the Fayetteville Sports Club hall of fame in 2004. “A little like Jimmy Valvano. Family was big for that Italian. He wasn’t a word guy. He was a show guy.” 

 Funeral arrangements for Coach Paroli are incomplete at this time.  

Bob Paroli, Douglas Byrd High School, Seventy-First High School, head coach, state title