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WOOD, GORDON

WOOD, GORDON (1914–2003). Gordon "Babe" Wood, high school football coach, was born on May 25, 1914, in Guion, Texas, to Avery V. and Katharine Wood, the youngest of eight children. A. V. Wood was a dry-land cotton farmer. Gordon grew up in West Texas and spent much of his childhood picking cotton to help support his family.

In the seventh grade Wood played in his first football game. He misinterpreted the "fight" chants at the pep rally, and during the game he spent most of his time beating up the opponent he was supposed to block. He graduated from Wylie High School where he was an athlete and a starter in both basketball and track. In 1934 Gordon Wood was recruited by Coach Leslie "Fats" Cranfill who offered Wood an athletic scholarship to Hardin-Simmons University. He played football and basketball, ran track, and boxed in order to maintain his scholarship.

In 1938 Wood received his first coaching job at Spur High School as assistant coach for football and head coach for track and basketball under Blackie Wadzik. Wood found his first head coaching position at Rule High School in 1940. After the attack on Pearl Harbor he enlisted in the Navy. In 1942 while he was waiting to be called up for duty, the Abilene school district hired Coach Wood on a day-to-day basis to coach spring training for seventh and eighth graders. The following fall while on furlough for a few weeks, Wood filled in as head football coach at Haskell High School where he is credited with one win. Wood also coached basketball in the Navy using new recruits to form teams. Gordon Wood met his wife, Katharine, in San Diego; they married in January 1945; they had one daughter and one son.

The Navy discharged Gordon Wood early when he was hired as the principal at Roscoe High School. He taught three math courses and coached football, basketball, and track. At Roscoe Coach Wood started using his legendary winged-T offensive formation for the football team. In his first year Wood took his team through an undefeated season and won the district championship.

After two years at Roscoe, Wood moved to Seminole High School in 1947 and first hired assistant coach Morris Southall; they would coach together for more than thirty years. In three seasons Seminole had nineteen wins, nine losses, and three ties, including the 1947 district championship. Coach Southall became head coach at Seminole when Coach Wood moved to Winters High School for one year in 1950. In 1951 Coach Wood's Stamford Bulldogs won nine games. They made it to the state semifinals in 1952 and state quarterfinals in 1953. In 1955 and 1956 the Stamford Bulldogs earned back-to-back state championships and extended a winning streak to 32 games which finally ended at 35 wins during the 1957 season. Wood ended his seven-year career at Stamford with eighty wins and six losses, a 93 percent winning record. In 1958 Coach Wood moved to Victoria where he reunited with Morris Southall and first hired a former Stamford player, Kenneth West, as an assistant coach; they would coach together for twenty years. In two seasons Victoria had twelve wins, seven losses, and one tie. Coach Wood then moved to Brownwood High School in West Texas. Morris Southall followed Wood, and a few years later Kenneth West would join them.

In 1960, Coach Wood's first year at Brownwood, they claimed their first state championship. Over the next four seasons the Brownwood Lions won a total of thirty-four games, and in 1962 they made it to the state quarterfinals. In 1965 Wood converted his Lions' defense, and Brownwood went undefeated to claim their second state championship. In 1966 the Lions had eight victories. In 1967 Brownwood captured their third state championship. The 1968 Brownwood went undefeated in district play and secured another district title. The Lions won back-to-back state titles in 1969 and 1970.

On May 14, 1971, Gordon Wood was honored at a ceremony where he was accompanied by former players, coaches, senators, representatives, the Texas Lieutenant Governor, University of Texas Head Coach Darrell Royal, and former President Lyndon Johnson, who was the key speaker at the ceremony.

The Lions finished with their fifth straight district title in 1971. In 1972 Brownwood began playing in the newly built Cen-Tex Stadium, renamed Gordon Wood stadium in 1980. From the 1973 to the 1980 season Brownwood won or shared six district championships, and they won state in 1978. In 1981 the Lions claimed their seventh state championship. In 1982 Gordon Wood passed Red Franklin's record of 366 wins set back in 1958 to become the winningest high school football coach in the United States. The Lions lost in the state quarterfinals in 1985, the seventy-one year old coach's last game. Wood's Brownwood record ended with 257 wins, 52 losses, and 7 ties, an 82 percent winning record. He led them to seventeen district or co-district championships and seven state championships.

Gordon Wood set a state and national record with a total of 396–91–15 in forty-three seasons as a Texas high school head football coach, an 80 percent winning record. Wood won or shared twenty-five district championships, and eleven state championships including his 1948 Seminole track team and his 1954 Stamford golf team. Coach Wood's original record had been believed to be 405–88–12 (81 percent). He was believed to be the first and only coach to ever achieve four hundred wins; however in 2001 the Dallas Morning News reported that Wood's record had been corrected. Since his retirement four other high school coaches in the United States, including Coach G. A. Moore from Sherman, Texas, have broken Coach Wood's 396 win record. Gordon Wood also coached four Texas All Star Teams in 1957, 1958, 1977 and 1985 with wins in 1958 and 1977. Coach Wood coached the summer camp for the Canadian League's Winnipeg Blue Bombers professional team in the early 1970s.

Gordon Wood's awards include Texas Sportswriters Association Coach of the Year (1956, 1970, and 1978), the Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor (1967) and Hall of Fame (1983), Hardin-Simmons University's Distinguished Alumni Award (1979) and Hall of Fame (1996), the National High School Athletic Coaches Association's National High School Football Coach of the Year (1979) and their Hall of Fame, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame (1983), the National High School Hall of Fame (1984), the Touchdown Club of Houston's Touchdowner of the Year Award (1986), and Football Coaches of America Lifetime Achievement Award (1999). In 1993 Martin Communications Publications named Wood Co-Coach of the Century along with Coach Paul Tyson in their Tops in Texas. In 1999 the Dallas Morning News named him Coach of the Century. The name became the title of his 2001 autobiography, Coach of the Century: an Autobiography by Gordon Wood.

Coach Wood is remembered as always being a student of football. He was also a strong opponent to the "no-pass, no-play" laws of the early 1980s. After his retirement he stayed very active, traveling across the state to watch high school teams compete and giving many speeches. He was notable for being one of Grant Teaff's Master Coaches in 2002. Coach Gordon Wood developed pneumonia and suffered a heart attack. He died in a hospital in Abilene on December 17, 2003. The Gordon Wood Hall of Champions Museum, located in the Depot Civic and Cultural Center in Brownwood, exhibits memorabilia from his long and storied career.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Mike Bynum, ed., King Football: Greatest Moments in Texas High School Football History (Birmingham: Epic Sports Classics, 2003). Ty Cashion, Pigskin Pulpit: A Social History of Texas High School Football Coaches (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1998). Dallas Morning News, November 17, 1999, August 1, 2001. Herman L. Masin, "A Texas Leaguer" Coach and Athletic Director 67 (November 1997). "Remembering a Legend" Coach and Athletic Director 73 (2004). Grant Teaff, Grant Teaff with the Master Coaches (Waco: I Believe Press, 2005). Gordon Wood Exhibit, Texas High School Football Hall of Fame, Texas Sports Hall of Fame; Jay Black, Curator, (Waco, TX). Gordon Wood and John Carver, Coach of the Century: An Autobiography by Gordon Wood (Plano: Hard Times Cattle Company Publishing, 2001).

Scott T. Taylor II

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Scott T. Taylor II, "WOOD, GORDON," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwo55), accessed September 18, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.