UNH Coaching Legend Bill Bowes Named To College Football Hall Of Fame

UNH Head Coach Bill Bowes

Editor’s note: This story is courtesy of New Hampshire athletics (www.unhwildcats.com).

SCOTTSDALE, AZ. – University of New Hampshire football coaching legend Bill Bowes was named to the 2016 College Football Hall of Fame Class by the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame on Friday. He is the first member of the UNH program selected for the Hall.

Bowes is one of 16 people (14 players, two coaches) who will be inducted at the 59th NFF Annual Awards Dinner held Dec. 6 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

Inductees will also be honored at the National Hall of Fame Salute at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec. 31. This accomplishment will be forever immortalized at the College football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

The inductees were selected from the national ballot of 76 players and five coaches from the Football Bowl Subdivision and the 92 players and 27 coaches from the divisional ranks.

The College Football Hall of Fame truly represents the elite of the game. Of the 5.12 million individuals who have played college football since 1869, only 1,188 (977 players, 211 coaches) have been immortalized in the Hall.

Bowes coached the UNH football team for 27 seasons, retiring after the 1998 season as the all-time winningest coach in Yankee Conference/Atlantic 10 history with a mark of 175-106-5 and seven coach of the year awards.

His UNH squads posted winning records 21 times, including 20 of his final 24 years at the helm. To this day, his 97 conference victories are No. 2 on the all-time list behind Villanova’s Andy Talley.

In Bowes’ final season on the sidelines, All-America running back Jerry Azumah rushed for 2,195 yards and 22 touchdowns en route to winning the Walter Payton Award.

In the process, Azumah became the all-time leading rusher in I-AA football with 6,193 yards. Azumah headlined a group of 12 All-America selections, six All-Atlantic 10 First-Team selections and 69 Yankee Conference First-Team representatives in the Bill Bowes era. Azumah was one of Bowes’ 22 Wildcats to play in the NFL.

“His teams were always known for their toughness and resiliency, but also for their great character and integrity,” current UNH head coach Sean McDonnell said. “It was a blue-collar football program where the name ‘New Hampshire’ really stood for excellence and competitiveness.

McDonnell emphasized Bowes’ ability as an instructor.

“He was an outstanding coach and teacher who influenced his players day in and day out, on the field and off,” McDonnell added. “The lessons he taught keep teaching us throughout our relationships and careers.”

Bowes, who joined the UNH coaching staff as an offensive line coach in 1966 before becoming the youngest head coach in school history in 1972, guided the Wildcats to four Yankee Conference championships (1975, ’76, ’91, ’94).

He strung together eight straight winning seasons from 1974-81 and had nine consecutive winning campaigns from 1983-91.

Bowes’ back-to-back championships in 1975 and ’76 resulted in NCAA playoff berths. He was recognized as the Kodak District I Coach of the Year both seasons and additionally was feted as the New England Coach of the Year in ’75.

In 1985, the Eastern Intercollegiate Officials Association honored him with the Murray Lewis Award for his sportsmanship. Bowes earned co-Yankee Conference Coach of the Year honors in 1989.

His ’91 squad captured the school’s 11th Yankee Conference title and advanced to the NCAA I-AA playoffs for the first time ever.

For his outstanding contributions to amateur football in the state of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Chapter of the NFF and College Hall of Fame honored Bowes with its Distinguished Contribution to Football Award on May 4, 1994.

The ‘94 Wildcats won the fourth Yankee Conference crown of the Bowes era and led to Bowes being named the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) I-AA Region I Coach of the Year, the New England Coach of the Year, Yankee Conference Coach of the Year and the Gridiron Club of Boston Division I Coach of the Year.

Coaching milestones for Bowes include his 100th coaching victory vs. Maine in 1988 and his 150th victory versus Richmond in 1994.

In 1999, coach Sean McDonnell initiated the Bill Bowes Coaches Award, an annual honor presented to a Wildcat senior.

On Nov. 26, 2002, Bowes was named the winner of the George C. Carens Award by the New England Football Writers for his outstanding contributions to New England football, becoming only the second Granite Stater honored (Joe Yukica).

“Coach Bowes set in motion a great culture of gridiron accomplishment that has lived on for many years and is further evidenced by our current run of football success at the FCS level,” UNH Athletic Director Mary Scarano said.

A native of Blanchard, Pa., Bowes began his athletic career at Lock Haven (Pa.) High School. He lettered in football, basketball and track and also played American Legion baseball.

Bowes went on to play tight end under legendary coach Rip Engle at Penn State until his graduation in 1965. Bowes captained the ’64 Nittany Lions squad and played in the Blue-Gray game. Bowes was the recipient of the Penn State University Alumni Athlete Award on Dec. 3, 2000.

Following his graduation, Bowes rejected an offer from the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and returned to Penn State to launch his coaching career.

After serving as a graduate assistant for one season, he came to UNH as an offensive line coach in 1966 and remained for an additional season.

He moved to Boston College with former Wildcat head coach Joe Yukica from 1968-71 before taking the reins at UNH as the youngest head coach in school history in 1972.

Among the members of the Bowes’ coaching tree is former Oregon and Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who played under Bowes at UNH and later served as one of his assistants.

By Doug Poole

Special to College Sports Journal