MIAMI — Joe Renfro, who has won three national wrestling championships in five seasons, will serve as interim director of athletics for the 2018-19 school year at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.
Current AD Dale Patterson plans to retire on June 30.
“Following someone like that is intimidating to say the least,” said Renfro, who rekindled the NEO wrestling program in 2013 after success at Labette (Kansas) Community College.
“I am honored with the situation,” Renfro said. “I am going to jump right in and not leaving any stone unturned because you definitely don’t want to get caught in a situation realizing ‘maybe I should have done this or done that.’”
Renfro will continue to head up a wrestling program that has won national titles in 2018, 2016 and 2014.
“There is pressure on me because things have been going to well for the athletic department lately,” Renfro said. “In my short tenure here, everything is perfect. I wish he would stay here. But it’s time for a change for him.”
Renfro will oversee an athletic department that includes wrestling, football, men’s and women’s basketball, softball, baseball, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball.
“I am just truly blessed and excited,” Renfro said.
"This option gives us the opportunity to sit down with Joe next year and evaluate the impact on him and the wrestling program since he'll be serving as head coach and director of athletics," NEO President Jeff Hale said.
Patterson said an assistant athletic director would likely be appointed to help take some of the administrative pressure off Renfro.
“Dr. Hale and I talked about it and met with Joe and talked about different ways to go,” Patterson said. “We are very excited to have Joe with his expertise. He is very organized, very well respected around the state, very well respected here on campus. We think he is the right person for the job and can take our program to every better heights than it has the last several years.”
Patterson’s retirement closes the books on a 30-plus year association with NEO A&M.
Patterson first arrived on campus in 1965 as a football player and has progressed up the ladder.
Through the years, he also has been a teacher, head of the social science department, served stints as registrar and dean of admissions, worked in recruitment, has handled discipline, worked in the maintenance department in the summer and athletic director.
“I’ve run out of jobs to do, so it’s probably time to get out,” Patterson joked. “It will be hard because NEO has been so much of my life.”
He met his wife, Donna, while both were students at the college.
“It will be hard and had second thoughts about it in the fall, but since then, I am looking forward to it and starting a new chapter in life.”
Patterson played for iconic head coach S.A. “Red” Robertson in 1965 and 1966 (which was Robertson’s final season).
After graduating from Drake, he broke into coaching at Cushing (working under another Oklahoma football icon, the late Faye O’Dell) and was head coach at Okmulgee (“I really thought I was going to go into administration there”) when Norse head coach Glen Wolfe came calling.
He served as defensive coordinator for Wolfe and eventually was named head coach in 1996.
Patterson became assistant director of football operations at Oklahoma State University in 2004 and returned to NEO in 2011.
He did just what Hale wanted Patterson to do: turn the Norse football program around.
He was 60-26 and won three Southwest Junior College Football Conference championships over his two stints.
"Coaches, student-athletes, faculty and community leaders all have great respect for Coach Renfro," Hale said. “Dale Patterson will not be easy to replace. Coach P has nearly four decades of service to NEO and will be missed.”