By Kevin Wilson
Harold “Bud” Elliott, the longtime football coach at Eastern New Mexico University, died Tuesday morning of heart and kidney failure in Lubbock, family members said. He was 73.
Elliott was remembered by colleagues as a man with a great sense of humor, a greater sense of morals and an indescribable drive as a football coach.
“He was always quick with a joke and he had a good sense of humor, but his teams always worked hard and they were competitive,” ENMU Athletic Director Mike Maguire said.
Services are planned for 3 p.m. Monday at the university’s Campus Union Ballroom.
Elliott coached 11 seasons at ENMU before retiring following the 2004 season, citing health reasons. His record was 68-49-2 at ENMU.
Elliott had a 37-year career as a college head coach, beginning in 1964 at Southwestern College in Kansas. His overall record was 205-179-9. A Sept. 11, 2004, victory against Southwestern Oklahoma made Elliott the 46th college football coach at any level to reach 200 career victories.
“He’s one of the best football coaches of all time,” said current Greyhound coach Mark Ribaudo, who was promoted after eight years as an assistant under Elliott. “I got to be his defensive coordinator, and it doesn’t get much better than that in my way of thinking.
“On a personal level, Coach Elliott gave me a job when I needed one bad. Coach Elliott picked me up when I was down. Coach Elliott gave me a chance when others hadn’t. I can never express in words what he meant to me.”
Elliott first got into coaching after he graduated from Baker University in Kansas in 1953. The next year, Elliott coached six-man football at Kansas’ Turon High School. He’d never seen a game of six-man football, Elliott said in a 2003 interview, but the school offered the most money.
He coached at three more high schools in Kansas before moving on to his first college coaching stop at Southwestern College. Coaching stops also included Washburn and Emporia State in Kansas, as well as Texas-Arlington and Northwest Missouri State.
Kathy Elliott said her husband put family first in his life.
“He was a great father. He had five kids. … He was a good husband. He put me first, and that’s really hard when football’s in your life,” she said. “I traveled with him because he wanted me involved in that part of life. Football never came before me.”
Elliott came to ENMU after the Greyhounds posted a 1-8-1 season in 1993. Maguire was on the search committee that eventually hired Elliott.
“He had built things wherever he had been,” Maguire said. “We called around and there wasn’t anybody who had a bad thing to say.”
The Greyhounds finished 6-4-1 in 1994, the first of nine winning seasons for Elliott.
He was named Lone Star Conference South Coach of the Year in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002.
His reach extended locally in many levels. Elliott was a member of civic organizations, including the Lions Club and the Rotary Club, and was a supporter of local athletics at all levels.
“He loved his work,” Kathy Elliott said. “He loved being involved in the community. He loved speaking. When we would have our meet-the-players night and we’d be out at the country club, he would speak last. By the time he got done, everybody wanted to put helmets and shoulder pads on.”
His coaching philosophy extends to nearby Portales High School, where Glenn Johnson has been for the last eight seasons. Johnson worked with Elliott for four seasons as an assistant.
“He was by no means dictator,” Johnson said. “That’s what I loved about him. He would let you coach to get it done with whatever means you saw necessary, as long as it was within his philosophy.”
When Johnson took over at Portales High School, it wasn’t his first time as a head coach. However, Johnson said he felt better prepared for PHS after learning about the profession through Elliott.
“In the coaching profession, especially the game of football, it’s not a one-coach sport, it’s not a one-person thing,” Johnson said. “You have to surround yourself with good people to the point where you’re able to all get on the same page and, in the bottom line, accomplish what you want to accomplish.”
Throughout his coaching career, Elliott believed that some things never changed regarding football.
“Regardless of the times,” Elliott said in a 2003 interview with the News-Tribune, “there are certain things that you need to teach young people: Responsibility, being able to stay focused, being able to buy into the program. It’s up to them to make decisions to make their program better.”
Ribaudo said Elliott represented Greyhound football, and many of his ideas are part of a collective philosophy called the Greyhound way.
“This program is still based on the same philosophy: Take what you have with what you are, make something of it and never be satisfied,” Ribaudo said. “That’s the way Coach Elliott ran his life and that’s the way he ran his football team. That’s one of 100 things we still do the Coach Elliott way.”