William Morley Jennings, coach, teacher, and athletic director, was born on January 23, 1890, in Holland, Michigan, the son of William and Ann Sophia (Osmond) Jennings. A sister had been born in England before the family immigrated to Newfoundland and then to Michigan. Morley Jennings attended high school in Albion, Michigan, and after graduating in 1908 he enrolled at Albion College. He was a gifted athlete who excelled in football, basketball, and baseball at Albion and later also in track at Mississippi A&M. His coach at Albion, W. D. Chadwick, took a position at Mississippi A&M (now Mississippi State University), and Jennings followed him there after his freshman year. He graduated from the college in 1912 with a degree in chemistry. He was the first athlete in the history of the school to letter in all four of the major sports in each of three successive years. Ouachita College at Arkadelphia, Arkansas, hired him as coach in football, basketball, and baseball and as a mathematics professor. In his fourteen years there his football teams won sixty-seven games, lost thirteen, and tied twelve. While still a student at Mississippi A&M, Jennings played semi-pro baseball for Knoxville in a class D league under the name Bill Morley. After his graduation he was drafted by the Washington Senators and played successive summers for Hartford in the class B Eastern League and Atlanta in the class A Southern, and beginning in 1915 for six years for Minneapolis of the American Association. He ended his baseball career after two years at Beloit, Wisconsin. He was 5 feet 10½ inches tall and played shortstop, third base, and the outfield. He was an excellent fielder and good hitter, and was considered a major-league prospect. But he thought of himself as a teacher first and left for baseball only after the close of the spring semester at Ouachita, returning to campus at Ouachita on Labor Day of each year.
In 1926, on the recommendation of Dana X. Bible, coach at Texas A&M, Jennings went to Baylor University as athletic director and football and baseball coach. He remained until 1941, when Texas Tech lured him away to become its athletic director. His Baylor football teams won eighty-three games, lost sixty, and tied six during his tenure. His baseball teams there also had fine records. He was known as a coach who instilled in his players a desire to win and who took ordinary players and turned them into great ones. He was widely called "the Builder of Men." Among his notable players at Baylor were Barton "Botchey" Koch (a guard who was the first consensus all-American from the Southwest Conference), Wear Schoonover, Jack and Jake Wilson, and Billy Patterson. At Texas Tech, Jennings rescued the college from near exile, after its dismissal from the Border Conference for rules infractions, and laid the groundwork for Tech's entrance into the Southwest Conference in 1956. He retired in 1950 but continued to teach in the health, physical education, and recreation departments until 1966. During his coaching career his football teams had won 150 games, lost 76, and tied 18. He was inducted into the Arkansas Hall of Fame in 1961 and the Helms Foundation and the Baylor halls of fame in 1965. The National Football Foundation awarded him its Distinguished American award in 1970 and inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 1973. In 1976 Texas Tech placed him in its Athletic Hall of Fame, and Albion College and Mississippi State University added him to their halls of fame. He was an excellent golfer and consistently shot his age even into his late eighties. He married Elizabeth Chapman Autrey on December 1, 1915. He was a Baptist. The couple had one son, Richard A. (Dick) Jennings, a Lubbock tax attorney. Morley Jennings died on May 13, 1985, and was buried in the City of Lubbock Cemetery. He was survived by his wife, his son, nine grandchildren, and twelve great-grandchildren.
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Denne H. Freeman, That Good Old Baylor Line: Baylor Football (Huntsville, Alabama: Strode, 1975). Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, May 14, 1985.
Physical Education, Home Economics, and Health
Sports and Recreation
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Lawrence L. Graves,
“Jennings, William Morley,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed July 06, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
March 1, 1995