A Texas Legend Fades

Emory BellardFormer Texas A&M and long-time Texas high school football coach Emory Bellard — who invented the famous Wishbone triple-option offense that transformed college football in the late 1960’s and 70’s — is suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The Chron’s Richard Justice passes along the news along with many nice remembrances of several of his former players.

Coach Bellard is truly a Texas football legend. He was an extraordinarily successful Texas high school coach from 1952 to 1966 at Ingleside, Breckenridge and San Angelo Central — his teams won the 1958 and ’59 state titles at Breckenridge and the 1966 crown at San Angelo Central.

But it’s Coach Bellard’s college coaching career that most folks remember. Darrell Royal hired Bellard as an assistant coach at the University of Texas in 1967 where Bellard developed the Wishbone offense that was instrumental in the success of UT’s 1969 and 1970 national championship teams that won 30 straight games.

Largely on the basis of his success at UT, Coach Bellard was named head coach at Texas A&M in 1972 and appeared to have the Aggie program at the brink of national prominence in 1978. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a tumultuous two-week period midway through that season resulted in Bellard resigning the head coaching position that he coveted.

Coach Bellard went on to coach at Mississippi State from 1979-85, but this quintessential Texas football coach always looked somewhat out of place in SEC country.

So, after retiring from coaching upon getting the axe at Mississippi State, Coach Bellard returned to his Texas high school roots at the age of 61 and coached for six more years at Spring Westfield High School. Westfield had won four games combined the two seasons prior to Coach Bellard taking over. Under Coach Bellard, Westfield went 41-22-5 and reached the Class 5A Division I quarterfinals his last two seasons. After his Westfield stint, Coach Bellard finally retired from coaching for good and moved to Georgetown north of Austin, where he became a regular at Berry Creek Golf Club.

Emory Bellard is a bright thread in the fabric of Texas that makes this such a fascinating place. May his final days be restful ones. He will be missed.

1 thought on “A Texas Legend Fades

  1. Run well, the wishbone became ballet — sweeping, diving, graceful, surprising, timed to tenths of a second or tighter. Street or Akins could make that wide option pitch-out look like it was simple and unavoidable destiny. And the whole thing seemed calibrated to unerringly find — and exploit — whatever the defense was giving up in order to try shutting down any one or two aspects of the ‘Bone. It was deeply gratifying to watch, and Bellard was surely inspired when he came up with it.
    Even the most loyal Aggie fan would concede, I think, that his successors at A&M have, for the most part, failed to match Coach Bellard’s dignity and class, even though some of them, from time to time, have posted better won-loss records. I wish him and his family comfort and peace.

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