Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A final campaign

Legendary Radford High School head football coach Norman Lineburg will retire at the end of the season.


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Norman Lineburg began his high school football head coaching career when John F. Kennedy was in the White House, The Beatles had not yet crossed the Atlantic and you could buy a used Rambler station wagon in Roanoke for $100.

Times have changed since 1962, but one constant has been Lineburg's figure roaming the sidelines.

But that, too, will soon change.

Lineburg, 70, who has spent the past 36 years as the head coach at Radford High School and has coached a Virginia High School League-record 474 games, said Monday that he will retire at the end of the 2006 season.

Radford opened practice Monday under Lineburg, who began his career as an assistant coach at Andrew Lewis in 1959 and first became a head coach at William Byrd in 1962.

Lineburg started the varsity program in 1965 at Fieldale-Collinsville -- a school which no longer exists -- and came to Radford in 1970.

"I was just thinking the other day that when I was first at Andrew Lewis, Eisenhower was President," Lineburg said. "I think I've been through 10 of them in my time."

Longevity has not been Lineburg's lone hallmark. The Winchester native ranks No. 2 on the state's career victory list with 310 wins, and he led Radford to back-to-back Group AA championships in 1971-72.

Moreover, Lineburg has been known among his peers for exhibiting sportsmanship and dignity and was inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame earlier this summer in Branson, Mo.

Lineburg was inducted into the Virginia High School Hall of Fame in 1996. He coached Radford to two outdoor state championships and one indoor state title in track and field. He served as the Bobcats' athletic director through the 2002-03 season.

Two years ago Radford honored Lineburg by naming the playing surface at Bobcat Stadium "Norman G. Lineburg Field."

Lineburg said he decided this summer that 45 years as a head coach -- 48 overall -- will be enough.

"I think I've been a little bit selfish by hanging on so long," Lineburg said. "I think they need to have someone there at the school more. I'm there a bunch, but I don't walk the halls like I used to."

Lineburg said his health is good. Monday, he was moving in 90-degree heat and motivating teenagers on the first day of practice.

"My father worked until he was 80, then he took care of my mother another seven years," he said. "I could coach forever if it was just that part of it. It's my passion in life.

"Everything in my life has been because of sports. It's been my life all the way through. I've just had some great folks I've worked with. I love the people at Radford, the people in the band, the chorus, the arts, all the teachers. My wife has been with me every step of the way. I couldn't have done this without her."

All four of Lineburg's sons -- Robert, Mark, Paul and Wayne -- entered the coaching profession. Mark Lineburg, who was the head football coach at Brookville High School at age 22, is now Radford's principal and will have a large say in finding a replacement for his legendary father.

Robert Lineburg is a former assistant basketball coach at Virginia Tech and most recently SMU. Paul Lineburg is an assistant principal at Cave Spring, while Wayne Lineburg is an assistant football coach at the University of Richmond.

Norman Lineburg is Timesland's second lame-duck coach in 2006. Martinsville's Taylor Edwards announced that this would be his final season earlier this summer.

"I thought about waiting until the season was over," Lineburg said. "I thought this would be better for the school. By doing it early they can take a complete look at the direction they want to go."

Lineburg began his coaching career in the fall of 1959 several months after graduating from Shepherd (W.Va.) College, when he was the line coach for the Wolverines under Hal Johnston.

Lineburg spent two more seasons at Lewis under Eddie Joyce, then became the coach at Byrd in 1962, posting a 14-15-1 overall record. His record was 18-27-2 at Fieldale-Collinsville. Since coming to Radford, Lineburg is 278-113-6.

His career record is 310-155-9.

Lineburg has outlasted contemporaries such as Pulaski County's Joel Hicks, Salem's Willis White and Northside's Jim Hickam. He has outlived legendary Southwest Virginia prep coaches such as Graham's Glynn Carlock, Appalachia's Tom Turner and Gate City's Harry Fry -- all three died within the past 12 months.

"The friendships within the coaching fraternity are just like family," Lineburg said. "I coached against all those guys and they've all been my dearest friends."

One of Lineburg's players at Andrew Lewis was Billy Miles, who retired as Franklin County's head coach earlier this year. A young graduate student who assisted Lineburg in the early 1970s at Radford was Frank Beamer, now the head coach at Virginia Tech.

"I've just been so fortunate to be around great people," Lineburg said. "Frank has been just a prince of a guy and now he's probably the best coach in the country. I'm so proud that he was with us and I'm so proud of him now."

Lineburg is fiercely loyal to Radford, which has not enjoyed a winning season since the Bobcats captured the Region C Division 2 championship in 2003.

He expects to be a familiar face on Radford's campus.

"I just never have liked the word 'retire,' " Lineburg said. "I want to keep my hands involved, whether in athletics or different aspects of life. I've never been one to sit around and watch TV.

"This is not about me. This has always been about helping kids and seeing them become successful in life as individuals. I just happened to come along at a good time."

Staff writer Ray Cox contributed to this story.

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