Bellard, Emory Dilworth (1927–2011)

By: George Slaughter

Type: Biography

Published: September 16, 2015

Emory Dilworth Bellard, a high school and college football coach and inventor of the wishbone formation, was born on December 17, 1927, in Luling, Texas. He was the son of Pearl Albert Bellard and Louie Cass (Davis) Bellard. The family moved to Port Aransas, Texas, when Emory was about twelve years old in order to facilitate his father’s recuperation after an accident, but Pearl Bellard eventually died. Emory grew up in Port Aransas. His mother managed Angler’s Court, a fishing bungalow, where he helped clean fish and made beds. An active Boy Scout, Bellard achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. He transferred to Aransas Pass High School for his junior year so that he could play football, and he graduated in 1945.

Bellard played running back at the University of Texas before transferring to Southwest Texas State Teacher’s College (now Texas State University), where he graduated in 1949. He became a high school coach in 1949. He had his first head coaching job at Ingleside from 1952 to 1954 and won consecutive regional championships. His 1958 and 1959 Breckenridge teams won Class 3A state championships. His 1966 San Angelo Central team won the Class 4A state championship. University of Texas head football coach Darrell Royal hired Bellard as an assistant coach for the 1967 season. He eventually became offensive coordinator for Royal and coached at UT through 1971.

Bellard is often credited for developing an offensive formation in which three backs lined up behind the quarterback. The fullback lined up directly behind the quarterback, and two tailbacks lined up behind the fullback in a split formation resembling a "Y." The formation focused on the quarterback’s “reading” of what the opposing defensive tackle would do on a given play. The quarterback could hand off the ball to the fullback, keep the ball and run to the outside, or make a quick pitch to the trailing tailback. The formation became known as the “wishbone” and played a large part in the University of Texas Longhorns’ success during that era. Texas won the 1969 and 1970 national championships and enjoyed a thirty-game winning streak from 1968 to 1970.

The Longhorns’ success boosted Bellard as a college head coaching prospect. In 1972 he was hired as the head coach at Texas A&M University. He coached the Aggies for six and a half seasons when he resigned midway through the 1978 season. Bellard’s Aggie teams won 48 games and lost 27. In 1979 Bellard became head coach at Mississippi State University. He coached through the 1985 season and then retired from coaching at the college level. In 1988 he became head coach at Westfield High School in Spring, Texas, and remained in that capacity through the 1993 season.

Besides winning records as a head coach, Bellard played a role in the desegregation of Southwest Conference football by recruiting star African-American athletes to Texas A&M. He is also credited with helping to implement women’s athletic programs at the university. He is considered an innovator of a football practice structure that focuses segments of time on particular drills.

Bellard received many honors during his career including head coach of the Texas High School All-Star football game (1960), West Texas Coach of the Year (1962), AFC College Coach of the Year (1975), Academy of American Football Gold Cup (1975), Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor (1976), and Distinguished Coach Award from the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame (1993). He was inducted into Texas A&M University’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1995. An avid golfer in his retired life, Bellard hosted with fellow coach, Spike Dykes, the Emory Bellard-Spike Dykes Golf Tournament in Marble Falls for seven years and raised money for children’s medical care in Burnet County.

Bellard was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 2010. He died at the age of eighty-three on February 10, 2011, in Georgetown. His remains were cremated. His first wife of forty-four years, Mary Kay Watkins, had preceded him in death, as well as a son and a daughter. He was survived by his second wife, Susan, and a son. Bellard was inducted posthumously into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

Austin American-Statesman, February 13, 2011. Emory Bellard as told to Al Pickett, Wishbone Wisdom: Emory Bellard—Texas Football Visionary (Buffalo Gap, Texas: State House Press, 2010). Darrell Royal and John Wheat, Coach Royal: Conversations with a Texas Football Legend (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005). Houston Chronicle, July 23, 2013. New York Times, July 23, 2013. 

  • Sports and Recreation
  • Education
  • Educators
  • Sports (Football)

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

George Slaughter, “Bellard, Emory Dilworth,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 16, 2015

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