Our region lost a good man last week. Bud Elliott, the longtime football coach at Eastern New Mexico University, died early Tuesday morning. He was 73. Memorial services are scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday at the Campus Union Ballroom on the ENMU campus.
Elliott was one of college football’s all-time winningest coaches, compiling a 37-year career record of 205-179-9. He coached ENMU to a 68-49-2 record in 11 seasons. He retired on top following the 2004 season — his seventh straight with a winning record.
But it’s not just the success logged in the record books we will remember. He also left a positive impact on many of the people he encountered, from the hundreds of young men he helped raise on the football field to the dozens of coaches he first mentored and then helped into the profession.
His fellow coaches offered high praise as they remembered his life last week.
“Eastern has always had class and character with their team, and he demanded that,” said Don Carthel of West Texas A&M University.
“He was a gentleman off the field. Bud was what a coach should be,” said Jerry Vandergriff, a longtime coaching rival at Angelo State University.
Elliott had a passion for coaching, and most agree he retired only because of health problems, which included regular dialysis treatments. He also underwent two heart bypass surgeries while coaching at Eastern and had to have a hip replaced in 2002 after a linebacker hit him in practice.
“Bud went to his final ‘game’ today,” his wife Kathy wrote in a message to his supporters on Tuesday. “He died this morning, the result of a long, hard struggle with heart, kidney and lung disease. He was just too tired to overcome his body’s weakening condition.
“He fought to the end. But tomorrow he doesn’t have to go to dialysis! Praise the Lord! … He truly missed his life’s work and passion. He loved all his dear players, coaches and friends.”
Elliott, a certified lay speaker in the United Methodist Church, once said he never doubted he’d made the right career choice.
“I believe that God’s plan for me was to be a football coach,” he said.
Many have benefitted from that career. Rest in peace, Coach.