Coach Ivan Jones (left) with former Foley coaches Lester Smith and Keith Smith
Foley High School has always had good football—successful seasons—great players. When Ivan Jones took over as head coach in 1955, he had pressure to win. And he responded by doing one of the hardest things there is to do in coaching—he took a good football program and he made it great. And he became a coaching legend along the way.
A native of Jackson, Coach Ivan Jones graduated from Jackson High School. His high school football career was interrupted by the war and he served in the Pacific. He went to Troy State after the war where he played center and linebacker until an bus accident returning from a game put a steel rod in his leg. Thus began one of the great coaching careers in South Alabama High School football history. His first job was at Perdido junior High in Baldwin county before spending 2 years at Foley as an assistant coach. He left Foley to return to his hometown of Jackson for a year before being selected for the Foley Head Coaching job. He would serve as the Lions head coach from 1955-1968 compiling a record of 108 wins, just 28 losses and 3 ties. For most of his career there were no football playoffs, which was probably good news for the other teams. He never had a losing season.
There are few teams in the history of Alabama High School football that can rival the 5 year run of the Foley Lions from 1960-1964. Coach Jones’ team went 47-3 during that span. The 1961 team went 10-0 and was awarded the Alabama Sportswriters Class 2A championship. They outscored their opponents 433-6. The 1962 team won the Birmingham Post Herald Class 3A Championship. This Foley squad gave up only 53 points. The ’64 team lost the first game to Vigor 13-7, beat W.S. Neal 7-6 and then recorded 8 straight shutout wins to finish the season at 9-1.
The Foley Lions under Ivan Jones won 10 county championships in 14 years. He was the 1962 Birmingham Post herald Coach of the year. Coach Jones was at the top of his profession. He coached in the 1956 All Star game and served as President of the Alabama High School Coaches Association in 1962. His most famous player was Kenny Stabler, who led the great 62 and 63 teams and went on to be an All American at Alabama and Super Bowl winning QB in the NFL.
Coach Jones retired from coaching in 1969 to go into administration. He served as assistant principal at Foley and then principal at Foley Middle School, retiring in 1988. He helped with football and baseball teams in Foley ever chance he had. He always encouraged students to get involved and became a great example of that in his retirement. He would volunteer as an assistant coach at Foley High, at the middle school and community league level. He taught swimming lessons for many years and coached summer baseball in the Foley community. The stadium at Foley High was named in his honor in 2004 and a special monument and plaque was placed there in 2010.
At age 88 he finally had to give up on the field coaching this year but served the Foley Middle School team by issuing equipment and taping ankles. He has spent 60 years coaching the young people of Foley. He is the true definition of a legend and a lifetime spent in coaching. It is with great honor today that the ALFCA bestows its lifetime achievement award upon Coach Ivan Jones.