RICHMOND, Ken. – The game of football has continued to evolve ever since Princeton and Rutgers met on a field on Nov. 6, 1869, to play the first-ever collegiate game. And over the years since, a seemingly endless list of legends have been made on and off the field who have left a lasting impression on the game as it is known today.
The world of college football lost one of its greatest legends when former Eastern Kentucky coach Roy Kidd died on Sept. 12 in Richmond, Ken. less than a week after entering hospice care.
He was 91.
Funeral services for Kidd will be held Sept. 18 at the EKU Center for the Arts and burial will follow in the Richmond Cemetery.
“Roy Kidd’s passing is a great loss for EKU, the city of Richmond, Madison County, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and the entire college football community,” EKU director of athletics Matt Roan said. “Coach Kidd’s impact on the people who were fortunate enough to know him was immeasurable and the pride he felt in being an EKU Colonel was apparent to everyone he met.
“College football is better for having Roy Kidd on the sidelines, EKU is better for having Roy Kidd on its campus, and we are all better for knowing and working with him,” Roan added.
Born in Corbin, Ken., Kidd was a three-sport standout (football, basketball, baseball) while attending Corbin High School. He was selected as a first-team all-state player as a senior in 1949 before graduating in 1950.
He was recruited to play football at Kentucky by then-coach Bear Bryant, but opted to matriculate to Eastern Kentucky and continued to excel in athletics.
“I wanted to play baseball, which was my favorite sport, but (Bryant) wanted me to focus on football,” Kidd recalled in that 2021 interview with College Sports Journal.
He was a record-setting Little All-American as a quarterback for the Colonels in 1953 and also played center field on the school’s baseball team. He batted better than .300 in each of his four seasons (1951-54) with the baseball team and earned varsity letters all four years in both sports.
After graduating from EKU, Kidd coached basketball and baseball at Madison Central High School in Richmond for one year before moving across town to coach football at Madison-Model High School. In six seasons (1956-61) there, his teams compiled a 54-11-1 (.826) overall record and strung together a 27-game winning streak during his time at the school.
He began his college coaching career as an assistant coach at Morehead State University in 1962 before returning to his alma mater as an assistant to Glenn Presnell in 1963 before succeeding Presnell who stepped down at the end of the 1963 season. In 10 seasons (1954-63), Presnell coached the Colonels to a 42-49-3 (.463) overall record and the school’s first two conference championships in program history as EKU won the Ohio Valley Conference in 1954 and again in 1962 under Presnell.
“He was a super guy,” Kidd said of his former boss.
Once Kidd stepped into the head coaching position at EKU, the program went to new heights and became the standard bearer of small college football across the nation almost four decades with Kidd at the helm.
In 39 years as coach (1964-2002), Kidd’s team compiled a 315-124-8 (.714) overall record, including a pair of NCAA 1-AA national championships (1979, 1982) along the way.
His 315 career wins are second in Division 1-AA/FCS history, trailing only another legend, Eddie Robinson, who led Grambling to a 408-165-15 record during his storied career (1941-1997) at the school.
Kidd and the Colonels claimed the 1979 championship with a 30-7 win over Lehigh in the championship game, while the second title came after EKU slipped past Delaware in 1982.
His 1979 and 1980 teams also advanced to the national championship game, marking four consecutive trips to the national championship. Boise State defeated EKU 24-23 in 1980 before the Colonels fell short the following season to Idaho State by a 34-23 score.
“We were fortunate enough to have won two national championships,” Kidd said, “but we lost a couple of close games that we had chances to win.”
The loss to Boise State continued to haunt the legendary coach well after his retirement.
“We had fourth down and Boise stopped us on a last-second pass,” Kidd recalled. “The pass was more like a dying quail.”
Kidd also looked back on a narrow loss in the Division II playoffs in 1976 when his Colonels traveled to Fargo, N.D. to take on North Dakota State on a cold late November afternoon.
“That was a very cold day,” Kidd said. “They had a snowstorm and we weren’t sure we would even play the game. But they dug out of the storm.
“We had a third down and needed one yard,” Kidd explained. “But, we had two penalties in a row and had to punt … and that pretty much ended our year.”
The Bison would go on to win the game 10-7 before falling to eventual national champion Montana State 10-3 the following weekend. MSU would win the national championship one week later with a 24-13 win over Akron.
Kidd, a two-time Division 1-AA coach of the year, guided the Colonels to 25 straight winning seasons (1978-2002) while at EKU and won 16 Ohio Valley Conference championships under his tutelage and advancing to the national playoffs 17 times. Kidd owns 16 of the school’s 22 conference championships.
Kidd was well respected by players and opposing coaches alike and is remembered as being stern and demanding, while being thoughtful and compassionate.
All-American tight end Jason Dunn, a second-round draft choice by Philadelphia in the 1996 NFL Draft, said: “Coach Kidd and his assistant taught us how to work hard, be hungry, passionate and confidence and, above all, competitive.”
“Coach Kidd had the knack of finding someone who may be a little smaller or slower and develop them, “said Tuck Woolum, who quarterbacked EKU’s 1982 national championship team. “He just made us all believe. We weren’t the most talented team, especially in 1982, but we believed we were the best team ever.”
“By the time Roy Kidd retired in 2002, he had made me a better football coach and left football a better game,” said Jack Harbaugh, who coached rival Western Kentucky for 14 seasons (1989-2002) while Kidd was on the other side of the Bluegrass State.
Kidd coached 55 All-Americans during his legendary career along the sidelines at EKU and 41 of his players went on to sign to play in the National Football League.
Just weeks after coaching his final collegiate game, Kidd was honored by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) with the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award, which honors those “whose services have been outstanding in the advancement of the best interests of football.”
Following his retirement as coach, Kidd, who was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003, remained at EKU and worked in the development office, where he rallied support for the school.
“Life changes, and I can’t play golf,” Kidd said, so I had to find another job to do.”
He was well suited for his new position at Eastern Kentucky.
“I want our people to have pride in this place, work hard to make it nice, get a good education, be a good person when you go out in the world and treat others the way you want to be treated,” Kidd once said.
Kidd is a member of five halls of fame, including the EKU Hall of Distinguished Alumni, the EKU Athletics Hall of fame and the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame. The stadium at EKU also bears his name, while a statue of the iconic coach stands sentry over the field he once roamed.
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association awards the state’s top high school football player each year with the Roy Kidd Award.
“You win with players,” Kidd said, “and to get the right kinds of people to play for you, you have to recruit honestly and have to be loyal to them as players and as people.”
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in his honor to the Roy and Sue Kidd Endowed Scholarship at Eastern Kentucky University. Checks can be mailed to the EKU foundation, CPO 19, 521 Lancaster Ave., Richmond, KY 40475. Online gifts can be made at go.edu.edu/Give-Kidd.
To this day, I remember watching on television as Eastern Kentucky played a 1976 NCAA Division II playoff game in Fargo, N.D. against North Dakota State. It was then I began to learn about EKU coach Roy Kidd and his greatness and I knew I wanted to be a part of college football in some capacity.
Over the years, as I learned more about college football, Kidd’s name continued to come to the forefront whenever thinking of someone who impacted the game in a significant and positive way.
A little more than a year ago, I was able to visit with Kidd on the telephone to gather information for a feature story. I was late in getting the story done. When hearing the news last week that the iconic coach was entering hospice, it prompted me to dig into my vast library of interview notes.
Roy Kidd was a man of integrity and his success as a coach is virtually unmatched and we all owe him a debt of gratitude for leaving the game much better than he found it.
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.