The Panther’s 6 a.m. workouts on the football field at the “Real BHS” have the look and feel of a different time in Bartlett High School’s history.
After 15 years away, football coach Mike Stark has made a volunteer re-appearance as the defensive line/strength and conditioning coordinator for head coach Jeff McFerran’s 2013 Bartlett Varsity football team.
Those old enough to remember Stark’s legendary 10-year tenure (1989-1998) as Bartlett’s defensive coordinator/strength and conditioning coordinator know that Stark’s seven state appearances, including four quarterfinals; eight City Weightlifting Championships; and three Tennessee State Weightlifting Titles weren’t achieved without a lot of hard work and dedication.
“He is one of the greatest coaching assets in West Tennessee and my hat is off to coach McFerran and (Principal) Ken Demetriou for bringing him back,” said David Reaves, Shelby County Schools Board member and Bartlett football alum who played under Starks before graduating in 1994. “Not only is he a great coach but a tremendous motivator. Very gifted. I went by practice for about 10 minutes the other day; it gave me chills, made me smile and I left motivated.”
McFerran said that when he heard Stark was retiring from his position at the University of Memphis, “He reached out to his friend of almost 30 years and asked him if he would like to help.
“Coach Stark knew that we both have very intense and similar coaching styles, and we knew we would work well together,” said McFerran. “Also, I trust Mike in the weight room. He’s very good at what he does and will prove be a true asset as we re-build our program.”
Stark has spent the last 11 years as the director of strength and conditioning for the University of Memphis, where he has been responsible for not only the football team but also, men’s soccer, baseball and track teams’ strength and conditioning programs.
Stark’s presence is just the beginning of a list of pivotal changes that McFerran has made as his first year as the leader of the Panthers.
Earlier this year, McFerran implemented a new junior high football program to help feed into the Panther playing pool and has also added Jeff Dowtin, a previous Memphis University School and Cordova High football coach, and former Duke player John Beaty (a Bartlett alum) to his staff. These monumental changes offer a huge surge of hope for the struggling program that barely went 1-9 last season.
The Panthers will take the tunnel for the first time at 7 p.m. Aug. 23 against Woodale High School at home.