By Kevin Wilson
Harold “Bud” Elliott is Greyhound football, and Greyhound football is Bud Elliott. Elliott is in season No. 10 with Eastern New Mexico University, at the tail-end of a career that has taken him through 36 years at numerous levels of college football. Elliott, 71, entered Saturday’s game at Texas A&M-Kingsville one win away from his 200th career victory.
The man behind ENMU football sat down during Thursday’s practice to talk about his past, the challenges of coaching and its rewards.
How were you first introduced to football and coaching?
I went to a high school that didn’t have football — they do now. I was a basketball, baseball and track athlete.
I always knew I wanted to coach. I started knowing I wanted to coach in the eighth grade. I got into college and really got to taking courses that were related to coaching football and just really loved it.
I was offered several jobs in Kansas, but I went out west, to Kansas and took a job coaching six-man football. I’d never seen a six-man football game in my life, but they paid better money.
I spent 11 years in high school coaching. My ambition was to become a college coach. I got an opportunity to apply for the job at Southwestern College. They made a decision to hire somebody else — I was the runnerup — and then the guy, after two days, turned the job down. I was also the head track coach and I coached cross country. (Elliott also spent time at Washington University, Emporia State, Texas-Arlington and Northwest Missouri State before coming to ENMU.)
How much is ENMU similar to those other places? How is it different?
I think that Eastern is very similar to coaching on the Division-I level because of the Lone Star Conference and I just really enjoy that competition. We’re the smallest school in the Lone Star and we’re really battling hard for funds … we’re underfunded scholarship-wise. I love the competition of the LSC because we all have Division-I caliber athletes.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed about coaching?
I think that there’s a lot more distractions for athletes. I think there’s probably — I don’t know exactly how to put it — parents are sometimes going through the same things with their sons as we are with them as athletes and I think sometimes they aren’t as supportive as they could be in some cases.
I still believe, regardless of the times, there are certain things that you need to teach young people: responsibility, being able to stay focused, being able to buy into the program. It’s up to them to make decisions to make their program better. I think it’s more difficult now with some of the distractions such as drugs and alcohol and things of that order.
What stays the same?
I think there’s always those athletes who love the game and who are out here because they do love the game. There’s kids out here that understand what it takes to make sacrifices … you work with those kids and that group gets larger and larger each year you work with them, and that’s really rewarding to see.
Any aspects about coaching that have gotten easier?
I don’t think anything gets easier about coaching. If you don’t give everything you’ve got for the good of your players, you’ve cheated your players and your coaches and your team.
What do you enjoy the most about coaching?
What I enjoy most is really the players themselves. I enjoy working with young men. I really like the opportunity to help mold their lives and change the direction they may be taking.
And I really enjoy the competition. Man, I get worked up and fired up still. I’m getting up in years. I’m on dialysis and I don’t enjoy that at all (three times a week, Elliott gets up at 3 a.m. and goes to Clovis to be hooked up to a dialysis machine).
But football makes the day go pretty darn good for me.
A win at Kingsville would be No. 200. Do you view that as a major accomplishment, or just another one in the win column?
To be honest with you, I really can’t remember my 100th win. It’s always my next game that I’m concerned about. This would be special, though — it really would be — and it would be extremely special to do it in Kingsville.