Rising enrollment, football fortunes in Barr’s tenure
The student body was steadily gaining in number. Shepherd was soon to join Concord as the two WVIAC teams that became the consistent winners in the NAIA league.
Walter Barr, a three-year, left-handed quarterback for previous Shepherd teams, came to be the Rams’ coach after an ultra-successful career at James Wood High School in Winchester, Virginia. The Colonels had state championship trophies in their cases, courtesy of Barr and his staffs.
Barr had something of a reputation as a no-frills, ground offense, bludgeon-your-defense coach.
In today’s college football world, Barr would have needed to adjust his practice schedules.
Now a thing of the rules-mandated past, two-a-day practices are gone. How would Barr have managed under the current system, because in his early days of any fall he held three-a-day sessions?
In their first year playing on the gnarled grass of Ram Stadium, Barr’s Rams went 7-1-2 and opened some eyes among the unsuspecting alumni, who had once attended Saturday games as a social event leading to the night’s dances and dorm gatherings.
Shepherd didn’t dazzle with high-flying offensive shenanigans. Barr’s teams were more reliant on a ground offense that didn’t leave turnovers that led to opponents’ scores.
Barr’s second season of the 15 years he would coach his alma mater finished with a 7-3 record. Shepherd’s players were being recruited and coming from an area replete with high schools that had responsible coaches and many quality athletes. From northern Virginia to Montgomery and Baltimore counties in Maryland, the players have seen keen competition in high school.
In 1976, Barr had his most wins in any season, going 10-2 after an 8-3 record the year before. A 9-1 record in 1977 was Barr’s best by winning percentage.
All-conference players were being feted. Barr’s most-honored player was running back Wayne Wilson, a 12th round draft selection by the New Orleans Saints. Wilson, now an assistant coach at Shepherd, also played for Houston, Minnesota and Washington.
The 1983 season saw a 9-2 record and featured freshman running back Anthony Crenshaw and his 1,303 rushing yards.
Following a 5-5 record (5-2 in the WVIAC) in 1985, Barr resigned the position he had manned for 15 seasons.
His overall record was 104-48-5 and had seen Shepherd win three conference championships, make the school’s first postseason appearance in 1983 and show such small-college luminaries as kicker Rick Kingsbury, fullback Gregg Warfield, quarterback Mike Calhoun, defenders Greg Lugat and Mark Brower, Crenshaw and Wilson.
Barr was named WVIAC Coach of the Year three times. He was inducted into the Shepherd Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989 and the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1989. A plaza inside Ram Stadium was given Barr’s name and a scholarship he co-sponsored with one-time head coach Mike Jacobs brings much needed funds to the football team.
Shepherd football games became something of a must-see event on the campus. And the now-gone WVIAC had the Rams to show the rest of the small-college football world.