Former IU football coach Bill Mallory dies

Bill Mallory, the fiery and beloved former Indiana University football coach who guided the Hoosiers to more wins than anyone in program history, died Friday.

Mallory had been placed in hospice care after suffering a fall on Tuesday, his son Curt Mallory said. He was 82.

In a head-coaching career that spanned 27 seasons, including 13 with the Hoosiers, Mallory earned respect as a football tactician, a mentor and a dedicated contributor to the Bloomington community.

At Indiana, few achieved the level of reverence Mallory occupied both as a coach and local leader.

“I like to think a lot of former players put Coach Mal on the same level as our fathers. At least I did,” said Mark Hagen, IU’s defensive line coach and a former linebacker and team captain under Mallory. “That’s about as high as you can go, in my opinion. I saw him as a father figure, and everything I did, I didn’t want to disappoint him. He was just a complete person. Very humble, but very intense at the same time. As a football player, you loved that about him.”

There was no doubting his acumen on the gridiron, where Mallory led the Hoosiers to a 69-77-3 record from 1984 to 1996. He took Indiana to six bowl games in an eight-season span ending in 1993, compiling a 58-38-3 mark overall and a 33-30-1 record in the conference during that stretch. It came during a time when bowl seasons were much more difficult to achieve.

In 1987, Mallory became the first coach to be awarded back-to-back Big Ten Coach of the Year awards, and he remains the only IU football coach to ever beat both Ohio State and Michigan in the same season (1987).

Mallory introduced Indiana football to new levels of success and prosperity, all while leaving a lasting, meaningful mark on those he encountered.

“He had a huge impact on me and my family, and who I am today as a father, as a business man,” said Randy Schneider, a former IU offensive lineman and team captain. “He’s just one of the best. From the loyalty he showed to his people and his integrity, it’s just second to none. The impact will last forever. He led from the heart.”

As Indiana’s program struggled to find its footing in the early 1980s, Mallory grew IU into a nationally relevant brand. Although his first team in 1984 went 0-11, Mallory held a special respect for that first group, which included linebacker Joe Fitzgerald, the first of 21 All-Big Ten First Team selections under Mallory.

Former linebacker Kevin Kelly, who went on to captain the Hoosiers’ 1987 Peach Bowl team, was among the first Hoosiers to see the blueprint for what Mallory hoped to build in Bloomington.

“I was a transfer walk-on from the University of Miami in ’84,” said Kelly, now the director of college scouting for the Los Angeles Chargers. “I had just left the team that won a national championship at Miami, but I remember telling my dad, ‘This man is going to get this program turned around. I just hope I’m here.’ He was that impressive to me, even that season. He just pushed all of us further than we thought we could be pushed. He’s a rare man that way. I’ve never been around anybody that pushed me like him.”

It didn’t take long for Mallory to change the outlook for the once-moribund program.

He guided the 1986 team to a 6-6 record and an appearance in the All-American Bowl. There were only two losing seasons in the stretch between 1986 and 1994, and both of those saw IU go 5-6.

That was the start of arguably the most successful stretch in Indiana football history, a period during which the Hoosiers became Big Ten contenders. Mallory’s 1988 team finished the season ranked No. 20 nationally by the Associated Press and No. 19 in the coaches poll.

During his career, Mallory, who posted a 165-121-4 overall record, with previous head coaching jobs at Miami (Ohio), Colorado and Northern Illinois, became one of only seven coaches ever to guide three different programs to top-20 finishes in the national polls.

He won at each location, taking Miami (Ohio) to the 1973 Tangerine Bowl, Colorado to the 1975 Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl and the 1977 Orange Bowl and Northern Illinois to the 1983 California Bowl.

Then, Indiana came calling.

At IU, Mallory cemented his legacy as one of college football’s great coaches. It was a fitting progression for the Ohio native, who learned the game from some of the sport’s most legendary names.

He played his first three seasons under Hall of Famer Ara Parseghian at Miami (Ohio) before entering his senior year as the first captain under new coach John Pont.

Mallory later served as a graduate assistant at Bowling Green under Hall of Famer Doyt Perry, and furthered his career as an assistant on Woody Hayes’ staff during the Buckeyes’ 1968 national championship season.

Years later at Indiana, Mallory took his place among the deans of the conference.

“I wanted to be a head coach, so I took a job in Chicago for five years and had some really good players,” Kelly said. “(Walter Payton’s son) Jarrett Payton was playing for me and playing really well. Everyone was recruiting him. (Penn State assistant) Jay Paterno was recruiting the high school, and I told him, ‘You gotta get your dad here.’ Sure enough, Joe Paterno visits to see Jarrett.

“He comes in and sits in my office and he’s like, ‘Jay tells me you played for Bill Mallory at Indiana.’ I’m like, I sure did, coach. I’m a lucky guy. He goes, ‘Yeah, you are. Can I tell you my Bill Mallory story?’ I’m like, you have a Bill Mallory story? I gotta hear this!

“He said the first year they’re in the league (1993), they were evidently recruiting a kid from Ohio that had already committed verbally to some other school in the league. Well, Penn State kept recruiting the kid. Coach Mallory picked up the phone and said, ‘Hey, Joe. We don’t do that in this league. Knock it off.’

“Paterno goes, ‘Everybody else, they’d just bitch and moan behind my back, but wouldn’t have the courage to pick up that phone and tell me straight. But you know what? I went down there, had a staff meeting and we stopped doing it.’ … He was a titan. His influence, his importance, we’re all just searching for how to describe it.”

Mallory coached three first team All-Americans at Indiana — Vaughn Dunbar, Anthony Thompson and Ernie Jones. No matter the accolades achieved by his players, Mallory was loyal to each one.

“When you hear that word ‘loyalty,’ that’s definitely something you can place with Bill Mallory,” said former IU quarterback Trent Green, who went on to have a Pro Bowl career in the NFL. “If you were loyal to him, it was a two-way street. He’d do everything he could for you when your career ended, whether it was football, or the business world, or anything.

“For me, I was drafted in the eighth round by San Diego (in 1993). I got cut my second year and I wasn’t sure what I was gonna do. I told him, ‘Hey, I want to come back to Bloomington and train.’ He said, ‘You can come back here, train and be around the coaches, go to meetings, be around the scouts. Basically, it’d be an open door. Whatever you want to do.’ That meant a lot to me, because it took me another year to get back into football. But he left that door open for me.”

For all that Mallory did for Indiana on the football field, he and his wife, Ellie, matched those efforts in the Bloomington community.

Mallory organized youth football camps that emphasized safety and fundamentals. He served as an enthusiastic fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club, the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, The Salvation Army, First United Methodist Church, Phi Kappa Tau and Jill’s House.

Mallory also served as an advisor to Bloomington’s Parks and Recreation Department.

He and Ellie dedicated themselves to impacting the lives of others, Kelly said, embracing those they encountered, while aiming to make everyone feel like part of the family.

“Coach was so demanding and hard on us, so she probably had empathy for us,” Kelly said. “She was that balance. When we were all there, it was like a family. She liked to linger outside the locker room for players who didn’t have their folks at games. Ellie Mallory was there for them. She thought of stuff like that.”

With a hardened focus and a selfless devotion, Bill Mallory made his mark at Indiana and beyond.

Now, his lasting influence is found in those he touched.

“I’ve never come across a more humble person in my life,” Hagen said. “It was never, ever about Bill Mallory. It was always about the team, about others. He was a true servant leader. He knew that he had to mold and help young men grow into young adults. But it was never about coach. It was always about the team. It was always about the big picture. That’s what I loved about him.”

10 comments

    1. I don’t think anyone could say it any better Jeff H. Great man and great coach.

  1. Hell of a man. Solid, positive ambassador for IU and Indiana. Coached good football. Most of all raised an outstanding family who will move forward.

  2. Coach Mallory is an icon of IUFB earning it through his building of the program, the way treated everyone, and his emphasis on excellence on and off the field and classroom. We have lost a wonderful man and a great football coach.

  3. I met Coach Mallory on a flight from Denver to Indy about 10 years ago. He was flying coach and I was in the middle seat on a full flight. I didn’t recognize him . He was on the isle and a former IU baseball player was on the window seat. The baseball player recognized him and introduced himself and then I said I was an alumni as well. What struck me most was how humble and unassuming he was. He felt truly blessed that he was able to get the IU job at what he felt was the end of his coaching career. He seemed perfectly at ease with himself and his only concern was helping his sons who had followed him into the coaching profession. There was a feeling of humility and dignity about him that was very grounding. He seemed to be the person most of us strive to be but end up falling short- both in terms of success but also in how we handle it.

    A couple of years ago, I had a brief conversation with Lou Holtz at the Indy airport. He was dressed head to toe in Notre Dame gear and was carrying a Notre Dame bag with “COACH HOLTZ” on the sides. Although very small and frail, he definitely wanted the world to know who he was and what he had accomplished. The two men could not have been more different. I was impressed with Coach Holtz, but I wish I could be more like Coach Mallory.

  4. 123, very well stated: I was impressed with Coach Holtz, but I wish I could be more like Coach Mallory. You did a great job distinguishing between two great coaches. The football world will be losing more of these coaches in the coming few years and it will be less for the missing experience of these coaches.

  5. Being at IU from 1988 to 1994, my recollection is there wasn’t a whole of media coverage or portrayal of Coach Mallory, the man and the coach, beyond pretty basic football coverage. Of course IU and Bloomington in those days were dominated by a certain Coach who was pretty much larger than life. It’s clear from the sentiments relayed in the aftermath of Bill Mallory’s passing that he was an excellent coach and a greater man. I can’t help but feel he was sadly under appreciated as IU’s football coach. I wish I would’ve had a greater awareness of the man when he was coach, and am certainly grateful to have learned more about him from those that were part of his program. IU was fortunate to have had Coach Mallory, and I was lucky to have witnessed his always competitive teams during my time at IU. Rest in peace, Bill Mallory.

  6. Definitely under appreciated, but under-supported too. IU was very fortunate to have such a man as their head football coach for so long.

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