Longtime Oxford AD headed for Hall of Fame
August 17, 2011 - A native of Golden, Illinois, Lee Noftz came to Oxford in 1963 as a teacher and coach and helped usher in the modern era of Wildcat athletics.
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For his efforts during his 22 years as Athletic Director at Oxford High School, Noftz was selected for the OHS Athletic Hall of Fame.
"I'm honored," Noftz said. "It's a pretty fine group of people that are already in, and this next group is equally impressive, so it's an honor."
Although Noftz enrolled at Western Illinois University in the fall of 1948, he only attended classes for two years before the outbreak of the Korean War. Lee enlisted in the United States Air Force.
While in the military, he met his future wife Bertha and in 1952, the couple married.
Prior to his enlistment, Noftz majored in engineering, but completed his degree in secondary education so he could follow his dream of becoming a coach.
In 1956 he was hired by Brown City Community Schools and coached the Green Devils track team to a league championship. Noftz became friends with Brown City football coach and future hall of famer Walt Braun.
In 1960, Braun was hired at Oxford and Noftz followed him three years later. He taught social studies along with being an assistant coach on the Wildcat football, basketball and track programs. In 1970, he continued to coach football and became the varsity track coach.
In addition, he would become the school's athletic director, a position he would hold for the next 22 years.
"We had several people serve as athletic director during my time here, and they really just asked me if I would be interested in doing it, and I accepted it," Noftz said.
He added it was something he was always interested in doing.
"It was an exciting time to be in athletic administration, especially here in Oxford because the program was growing and girls athletics was just about to come onto the scene," he said.
Noftz eventually became Oxford's first full-time athletics administrator, but not before leading a dramatic expansion of the athletic program, especially in girls sports, before retiring in 1992.
He said he wanted to expand the girls program long before Title Nine came into affect in 1972.
"I felt it was something we needed to do, and when Title Nine came along, we didn't have a choice," he said.
According to Noftz, he thought the attitude about girls not needing to be physical was holding the girls sports scene back.
"But that changed, of course, for the better truly," he said.
During his time as Athletic Director, he added girls basketball, girls track, girls cross country, volleyball, wrestling, boys and girls soccer and different levels of competition with the inclusion of freshman and middle school sports.
Noftz eventually left the coaching ranks in 1978 to focus on his athletic administration duties. He built the Wildcats track program into one of the most formidable in Oakland County. In 1980, he was recognized as the Meet Honoree at the Oakland County track & field championships.
Once a part of the Central Suburban League, OHS joined the Oakland A Conference in 1969. In 1980, Noftz led the effort to transition OHS to the North Oakland Activities Association.
"At the time we went into the Oakland A, it sounded like a good idea, but we weren't quite ready for that. The competition was just a little too tough for us, and because of that, we weren't having a lot of success, and that meant you weren't going to attract some kids," he said.
He added the four-year membership in North Oakland was just a stop-gap until they found a conference that would suit their needs perfectly.
"It worked out pretty well for us, but the biggest problem was that it was a small league," he said.
And then in 1984, Noftz led the Wildcats into the Flint Metro League.
"I think one of the best moves we ever made was going into the Flint Metro," he said. "The schools were, size wise, all very compatible and social-economically were very similar in all the school districts. I think our program started to grow in North Oakland, but it really blossomed once we got in the FML."
Under his leadership, the Wildcats captured dozens of FML and MHSAA district and regional championships, including the 1991 MHSAA Class B boy's track & field championship.
He said one of his biggest things he tried to do was develop an attitude that athletics was important.
"We needed to set a high standard not only for our teams, but for individuals as well to compete," he said. "We tried to come up with handbooks for the kids, a code of conduct for the kids and tried to keep expanding it."
"I always felt every kid had some athletic ability, they just needed to find the sport they fit into. So the more comprehensive the program was, the better chance you had of meeting the needs of students," he added.
Although retired after 36 years in education, Noftz continues to serve youth as a driving instructor, a position he's held for over five decades. Lee and wife Bertha have four grown children, all OHS graduates, and will celebrate their 59th wedding anniversary in September. They reside in Oxford.
Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.