CAMPBELL, V.M. “Bic”
HUMPHREYS, Dr. CECIL C. “Sonny”
MURPHY, BILLY “Spook”
SCHERER, WILLIAM “Rip”
STOBART, CHARLES “Chuck”
WILSON, CLYDE (1912-1915)
Record: 9-12-1 Best season: 4-3
SHEA, TOM (1916)
Vanderbilt graduate and former player.
CAMPBELL, V.M. “Bic” (1917, 1919)
Record: 6-6 Best season: 3-2
CHILDERSON, JOHN (1918)
GEORGE, ELMORE (1920)
WILSON, ROLLIN (1921)
Memphis graduate and former player. Volunteered to coach the team when previous coach Elmore George declined and a few starters had transferred out.
BARNARD, LESTER (1922-1923)
Record: 11-5-3 Best season: 6-3
The first man specifically hired to coach. He coached the football and basketball teams. Coached the legendary All American John Barnhill, who later went on to become the Arkansas Head Coach (and for which Barnhill Arena in Arkansas is named). Barnard’s team created the motto “Every man a tiger”, which cemented the team nickname “Tigers”. Barnard later became Head Coach at Central Michigan.
CURLIN, ZACH (1924-1936)
Record: 43-60-14 Best season: 8-0-2
Vanderbilt graduate and former player. Also served as Athletic Director and basketball coach during his tenure at Memphis. After a difficult 1936 season, Curlin handed the reigns over to former Assistant McKeen. Served Memphis in various capacities until his retirement in 1960.
MCKEEN, ALLYN (1937-1938)
Record: 13-6 Best season: 10-0
Tennessee graduate and former football, basketball and track star. Known for high scoring offense. In 1932, while practicing law in Memphis, he became an Assistant Coach for Head Coach Zach Curlin. In 1935, he left the team to re-focus on his law practice, then was called back as Head Coach in 1937. He brought the “modern” single wing formation to Memphis.
When players who were accustomed to playing the game without a helmet tried to play hatless, McKeen would tape the helmet to their head (1). Received the first bowl invitation in Memphis history but had to decline due to a limited budget. Left for the Mississippi State Head Coach position where he went on to become the SEC Coach of the Year in 1940. Inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame and the All American Football Foundation Hall of Fame.
HUMPHREYS, Dr. CECIL C. “Sonny” (1939-1941)
Record: 14-15 Best season: 6-3
University of Tennessee graduate and former All American player. Also earned his Masters at Tennessee and earned a PhD from New York University. Received an honorary Doctor of Law degree from Southwestern University. Came to Memphis as an assistant coach to Allyn McKeen in 1937 and taught History.
Lost half of his 1941 team to the war efforts. WWII Navy veteran and former FBI agent. After the war, he returned to Memphis as Athletic Director (1947-1959). He became the University President and served 1960-1972. Served the school as Professor, Assistant Coach, Head Coach, Athletic Director, Dean and President. Dr. Humphreys left Memphis in 1973 to serve as Chancellor for the Tennessee University systems. Dr. Humphreys was elected into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and the All American Football Foundation Hall of Fame. He was married to Florence Van Natta of Memphis.
JAMERSON, CHARLIE (1942)
Took over a limited roster squad after many of the team, and Head Coach Humphreys, left the school and joined the war effort.
Football disbanded due to WWII (1943-1947).
HATLEY, RALPH (1947-1957)
Record: 59-43-5 Best season: 9-1
University of Tennessee graduate and former player. Also coached the Golf team at Memphis. After WWII, Hatley had to rebuild the team from scratch. He signed 37 players in 1947. Created the intra-squad Blue-Gray Spring Game. The 1949 squad outscored opponents 385 to 87. Both the 1949 and the 1950 offensive teams were ranked #2 in the country. Brought the split-T formation to Memphis. Led the Tigers to their first bowl game in 1956. Inducted into the All American Football Foundation Hall of Fame and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.
MURPHY, BILLY “Spook” (1958-1971)
Record: 91-44-1 Best season: 9-0-1
Mississippi State graduate and former All SEC player. Played for former Memphis Coach Allyn McKeen at Mississippi State. WWII Marine veteran and Bronze Star recipient. The war interrupted Murphy’s playing career, and he played his Junior year at Duke while undergoing Marine training in North Carolina. After the war, he reclaimed the lost year of eligibility and returned to Mississippi State to finish.
Came to Memphis as an assistant coach to Ralph Hatley in 1947. Left Memphis to return to Mississippi State as an assistant coach in 1952. Accepted the Head Coach position on his 37th birthday. Was the first full-time head coach at Memphis. Prior to 1958, all coaches had served dual roles as teacher-coach. Murphy was known for disciplined teams running a Wing-T offense and an aggressive, hard-hitting defense. He also served as Athletic Director from 1966-1981.
During his tenure, Murphy was the fifteenth most successful coach in the country – a remarkable feat considering that his peers were Joe Paterno, Bear Bryant, Ara Parseghian, Bo Schembechler, Doug Dickey, Woody Hayes, John McKay, Ralph Jordan and Vince Dooley. Inducted into the All American Football Foundation Hall of Fame and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.
The hiring of Murphy in 1958 was the beginning of a 5-year plan to move Memphis into major college football (2). Coinciding with the school moving to university status in 1957, the plan included the creation of the Highland Hundred booster organization in 1958 and an overall upgrade of the entire athletic program. Murphy’s intentions were to increase the level of competition by playing more SEC schools and to devote many of his resources to recruiting.
In 1961, Murphy’s fourth season, the Tigers took a major step by going 8-2 and outscoring opponents 332 to 75. The 1962 team defeated Mississippi State 28-7, which was Memphis’ first win over an SEC opponent. During the “5 year plan” Memphis expanded their staff with proven coaches, increased recruiting efforts, scheduled more highly regarded opponents and increased media campaign efforts. In 1963, Murphy’s Tigers went 9-0-1 which included a second straight win over Mississippi State and an epic scoreless tie with Ole Miss. (Both Mississippi teams went to bowl games that year.) That season ended with Memphis as the #3 Defense and the #26 Offense in the country (3).
For his efforts, Murphy was named National Coach of the Year by at least one national publication in 1963. This successful run led to Memphis moving into the new Memphis Memorial Stadium in 1965. Murphy led the Tigers to join the Missouri Valley Conference in 1966 and won the 1968 conference title in their first full season schedule. He won 3 MVC championships out of the 4 years that the Tigers were eligible. His 1967 team was the first to ever defeat rival Ole Miss (27-17).
Under Murphy’s leadership, the Tigers were the #11 winningest program in the 1960’s. John Vaught said this about Murphy: “No one else would have been tough enough to build a program there…If he had been on my staff, we would have won the world.” (1)
PANCOAST, FRED (1972-1974)
Record: 20-12-1 Best season: 8-3
Tampa University graduate and former player. Marine veteran and played for the Parris Island Marines team. Former Head Coach at Tampa University. Known for passing offenses as Coordinator at Florida and Georgia. At Florida he coached Heisman winner Steve Spurrier. Pancoast was known for saying, “Speed is the top thing in the offense”. (4)
One of the first thing he did was change the look of the team by adopting Dallas Cowboys style uniforms. He left for the Vanderbilt Head Coach position. Inducted into the All American Football Foundation Hall of Fame and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.
WILLIAMSON, RICHARD (1975-1980)
Record: 31-35 Best season: 7-4
Alabama graduate and former All SEC player. Played Wide Receiver for Bear Brant and has the distinction of catching the first collegiate TD pass of Joe Namath. Williamson described his offensive philosophy like this: “personnel dictate to some extent the type of offense that is run, but I favor the option oriented offense”.
At the age of 33, he was one of the youngest Head Coaches in the nation. He was known as a hard-nosed disciplinarian. After being dismissed at Memphis, Williamson moved to the NFL where he had a lengthy career as an Assistant and Head Coach.
DOCKERY, REX (1981-1983)
Record: 8-24-1 Best season: 6-4-1
Tennessee graduate and former player. Former Head Coach at Texas Tech. Endured a rough start at Memphis, including a 17 game losing streak in 1981-1982. Still, Dockery signed one of the most talented high school players the city of Memphis had ever produced in Charles Greenhill. The 1983 team exploded by blowing out Mississippi in the opening game, 37-17. That Tigers team finished 6-4-1and got national recognition for the turn around.
With recruiting success and the winning momentum, the Tigers seemed to be on track for big things. However tragedy struck after the 1983 season. Coach Dockery, Offensive Coordinator Chris Faros and player Charles Greenhill were killed when their plane crashed in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee as they traveled to a high school football banquet.
It was the darkest time in the history of Tiger football. Dockery was inducted into the All American Football Foundation Hall of Fame and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. The playing surface at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium is named “Rex Dockery Field” in his honor.
DEMPSEY, REY (1984-1985)
Record: 7-12-3 Best season: 5-5-1
Geneva College graduate and former player. Earned his Masters at Westminster College. Hired after winning the Division 1AA national championship at Southern Illinois. Also a former head coach at Youngstown State. Dempsey was a devout Christian and held the team to strict moral standards.
BAILEY, CHARLIE (1986-1988)
Record: 12-20-1 Best season: 6-5
Tampa University graduate and former player. Veteran SEC Assistant Coach hired from Florida. Enjoyed some of the biggest wins of the modern Memphis football era – including Mississippi, Louisville and Alabama. His biggest and most satisfying win came in 1988 when he returned to Florida and defeated the #20 ranked Gators.
Again, the Tigers seemed to be on the right track, when the school came under NCAA investigation. It was found that a player had been overpaid for a summer job, so the Tigers received 2 years probation and Bailey was forced to resign. He went on to become head coach at UTEP.
STOBART, CHARLES “Chuck” (1989-1994)
Record: 29-36-1 Best season: 6-5
Ohio University graduate and former player. Also earned his Masters at Ohio. Became the fifth Head Coach in a 10 years span at Memphis. Former head coach at Utah and Toledo. Hired from USC (Offensive Coordinator), he arrived just 5 weeks prior to the opening of the 1989 season. Led the Tigers to Los Angeles Coliseum for a televised Labor Day game in which the Tigers upset #14 USC.
Despite notable wins over USC, Mississippi, Arkansas and Mississippi State, Memphis was never able to acquire a bowl bid during Stobart’s tenure. He endured a player walk-out at Memphis and went on to post winning records his last three years at the school. However, with unrest in the program and with a fan base craving a bowl game, Stobart was dismissed after the 1994 season. He went on to serve as Offensive Coordinator at Ohio State for many years.
SCHERER, WILLIAM “Rip” (1995-2000)
Record: 22-44 Best season: 5-6
William & Mary graduate and former player. Earned his Masters at Penn State. Former Head Coach at James Madison. He inherited a team with a large percentage of Junior College players on the roster. Scherer made recruiting the best high school kids in the city of Memphis his staff’s priority and as a result, the 1996 recruiting class is largely considered the best class ever signed at Memphis.
Led the school to what many consider the biggest win in school history. In 1996 the Tigers were 28 point underdogs to #6 Tennessee, led by Heisman candidate Peyton Manning, in a televised game. The Tigers used a blitzing defense to keep Manning off balance, and big scoring plays to upset the Vols 21-17 for the first time in school history. However, he was unable to capitalize on the momentum of the Tennessee win. Scherer was a very liked and respected man in the community, so most were patient with his approach to building the program.
After six consecutive losing seasons, Scherer was dismissed and replaced by his Defensive Coordinator. To Scherer’s credit, he encouraged the Administration to promote Tommy West and pledged full support to him. Scherer has gone on to hold various offensive coaching positions at universities and in the NFL.
WEST, TOMMY (2001-2009)
Record: 49-61 Best season: 9-4
Tennessee graduate and former football and baseball player. He was drafted by the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the MLB Chicago Cubs. The former Head Coach at UT Chattanooga and Clemson came to Memphis as Defensive Coordinator for Rip Scherer and his 2000 defense finished the season ranked #5 nationally.
West pledged to have an exciting offense that fans would enjoy. Recruited one of the most successful quarterbacks in school history (Danny Wimprine) and the most successful running back (DeAngelo Williams). Introduced the no-huddle offense to Memphis.
In 2003, led the Tigers to that elusive bowl bid that had evaded the Tigers during the modern era with a victory over North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl. After losing two quarterbacks to broken legs in 2005, West converted Wide Receiver Maurice Avery to QB and revised his playbook to what is today commonly called a “wildcat” offense. Against the odds, and on the legs of All American DeAngelo Williams, the Tigers achieved their third straight bowl bid at the end of the 2005 season.
The offensive record book at Memphis was largely re-written during the Tommy West era. Despite five bowl bids during his tenure, the C-USA championship (and automatic bid to the Liberty Bowl) eluded West. Fans and the administration become restless with the Tigers perceived inability to take the next step, and West resigned at the end of the 2009 season.
In a fiery resignation speech, an impassioned West said “We’ve got to help this football program… or do away with it.” Won the Tennessee Sports Writers Coach of the Year award in 2003. Inducted into the All American Football Foundation Hall of Fame.
PORTER, LARRY (2010-current)
Memphis graduate and former player. Formerly Assistant Coach with the national championship Louisiana State team. Reknowned as a relentless recruiter, Porter is a two-time winner of national “Recruiter of the Year” award. In his first head coaching position, he brings a passion and energy to the program. He also has a vision, born in his playing days at the school.
After watching the Memphis basketball team play for the 2008 national championship, Porter says, ‘‘I will never forget that, on one hand, I was so proud of my alma mater. On the other hand I was saying, ‘You know what? Football can be just as good.’ I went to bed with that vision in my mind. (Saturday) night I probably slept two hours thinking about that same vision of being a championship-caliber program.” (5)
(1) 2009 University of Memphis football media guide.
(2) 1958 Memphis State University football media guide.
(3) 1964 Memphis State University football media guide.
(4) 1972 Memphis State University football media guide.
(5) The Commercial Appeal, 11/29/09.