Former Ole Miss football coach Billy Brewer dies

Billy Brewer was 83.

Posted: May 13, 2018 11:15 PM

OXFORD, Miss. (Ole Miss Athletics/WTVA) - Homer E. “Billy” Brewer, 83, who played on three of Johnny Vaught’s greatest teams and then returned years later to become the second winningest head football coach in school history, passed away late Saturday afternoon at Tresevant Manor in Memphis, Tennessee, following a brief illness. Arrangements are incomplete at this time.

Brewer, who was retired and living in Oxford, was married to the late Kay Gunter of Columbus, Mississippi. They are the parents of two sons – Brett (Susan) of Memphis, Tennessee and Gunter (Rhonda) of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. They also have five grandchildren -- Keaton, Lauren, Blaine, Bailey Katherine and Brogan.

“As a coach and player, Billy Brewer shared a love for Ole Miss that was unparalleled,” said Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke. “He was greatly admired by his players and his teammates and will forever be engrained in the history of Rebel Football. Our prayers go out to the Brewer family and all of Rebel Nation during this time.”

During his 11 years at the helm of the University of Mississippi’s football program, Brewer’s 67 total victories placed him second behind Vaught. His 11 seasons as head coach also represented the second-longest tenure coaching Ole Miss football, more years than anyone with the exception of Vaught, who had 190 victories during his 24-plus campaigns as leader of the Rebels.

When compared to the Vaught era (1947-70; 1973), Brewer's coaching career at Ole Miss may not seem long. However, a closer look reveals an interesting fact. In his tenure at Ole Miss, which began prior to the 1983 season, Brewer became the Dean of Coaches in the Southeastern Conference, a position he inherited in 1993 when Auburn's Pat Dye retired and Tennessee's Johnny Majors left the Vols for Pittsburgh.

When Brewer was selected to succeed Steve Sloan in December of 1982, he did so with high hopes of turning around an Ole Miss football program which had fallen from the nation's elite. Ole Miss had not been to a bowl game in 12 years, was nowhere to be found in the national polls and coming off five straight losing seasons.

Brewer promised to once again make Ole Miss competitive and time would tell that he remained true to his word. He took the Rebels and their fans bowling five times, becoming the only Ole Miss head coach to guide five of his first 10 teams to a bowl game. During his playing days at Ole Miss, Brewer was on teams which went 3-0 against in-state rival Mississippi State. That success continued during his stretch as head coach as the Rebels were 8-3 against the Bulldogs, including seven wins in his first eight seasons.

Under Brewer’s direction, Ole Miss won for the first time ever at Alabama, won at LSU for the first time since 1968, gained its first victory over Georgia since 1976 and earned its first victory over Arkansas in Little Rock since 1960. Although there were peaks and valleys during the Brewer era, the Rebels returned to being nationally ranked multiple times by the various polls.

In his 11 seasons at Ole Miss, Brewer compiled a 67-56-3 record and was selected Southeastern Conference "Coach of the Year" three times -- in 1983 by the Associated Press, in 1986 by United Press International, and in 1990 by the Birmingham News and Nashville Banner.

Brewer’s success as a player and coach brought other individual honors as he was inducted into the Independence Bowl Hall of Honor in 2000 and the Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame in 2011. He will also be inducted posthumously into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame on July 28, 2018.

Brewer's first Ole Miss team was the surprise of the Southeastern Conference in 1983. After going 7-4 overall and finishing 4-2 in league play, including a dramatic 24-23 win over Mississippi State, the Rebels then lost to Air Force, 9-3, in the Independence Bowl. It was the first postseason trip for the Rebels since the 1971 Peach Bowl when Billy Kinard's team defeated Georgia Tech 41-18.

Following 4-6-1 finishes in 1984 and 1985, the Rebels entered the 1986 season ranked no higher than seventh in most preseason SEC polls and one national publication even picked Ole Miss last. When the regular season ended with a 24-3 victory over Mississippi State, Brewer's squad was 4-2 inside conference play and only one victory short of possibly representing the SEC in the Sugar Bowl. The 1986 campaign, which included a 21-19 win over eventual SEC champ LSU in Baton Rouge, was capped with a 20-17 victory over Texas Tech in the Independence Bowl, giving the Rebels an 8-3-1 overall record.

Consecutive losing seasons followed the success of 1986 as the Rebels went 3-8 in 1987 and 5-6 in 1988 before rebounding in breath-taking style in 1989.

Success came hard during the 1989 campaign as Ole Miss produced several heart-stopping victories on their way to an 8-4 overall record and a 4-3 mark in the SEC. While the year was capped with an impressive 42-29 victory over Air Force in the Liberty Bowl, the season was bittersweet with the loss of defensive back Chucky Mullins, who suffered an injury in the Homecoming game with Vanderbilt that left him paralyzed. Due to complications from his injury, Mullins passed away on May 6, 1991 and Brewer gave the Eulogy at Chucky’s funeral service held in the C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum.

Following the Mullins injury, it was Brewer who decided to honor Chucky each season by having a deserving player wear his uniform number 38. Chris Mitchell was the first recipient in 1990 when the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity at Ole Miss initiated the annual Chucky Mullins Courage Award.

A 9-3 record in 1990 helped the Rebels compile back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1970-71 and represented the most wins for an Ole Miss team since the 1971 squad went 9-2. At 5-2 inside the SEC, the Rebels tied Alabama for second place and rose to as high as 15th in the Associated Press poll before ending the season 21st after losing to Michigan in the January 1, 1991 Gator Bowl.

Ole Miss slipped to 5-6 in 1991 as the Rebels lost their last five games. Three point losses to both Vanderbilt and LSU late in the season spoiled any chances of another bowl trip and the Ole Miss offense struggled when quarterbacks Russ Shows and Tom Luke sustained injuries.

Brewer got his Rebels back on track in 1992. After being picked last in the SEC Western Division during preseason, Ole Miss completed the year with a 9-3 record, finishing second in the Western Division to national champion Alabama. A 13-0 shutout of Air Force in the Liberty Bowl was rewarded as most final polls had Ole Miss 16th and the New York Times rated the Rebels 10th.

The University of Mississippi celebrated its 100th anniversary of fielding a collegiate football team in 1993 and Ole Miss fans selected Brewer to the "Team of the Century" as a defensive back. However, a 5-6 finish was especially disappointing since it came during a season when the Rebel defense led the nation by allowing only 234.4 yards per game. Ole Miss got off to a 4-2 start and were nationally ranked at one point, but dropped four of their final five games as the offense had trouble putting points on the board. Probably the toughest setback of the year came against defending national champ Alabama as the Tide slipped past the Rebs 19-14 on the Oxford campus.

When Billy Brewer became head football coach at Ole Miss in 1983, he was searching for a way to allow his team to experience the atmosphere and pageantry Rebel fans enjoyed in The Grove while tailgating on gameday. Taking a different route two hours before kickoff of each home game, Brewer would walk with the team from Kinard Hall, then the athletic dormitory, across campus to Vaught‑Hemingway Stadium.

In 1985, Brewer started going the same route each Saturday as the team would enter The Grove on the east side of the Student Union building and then proceed down a sidewalk which runs through The Grove. That traditional team entry point took on an added significance in the fall of 1998 when a “Walk of Champions” arch was donated to the University by members of the 1962 football team, which is the only undefeated squad (10-0) in Ole Miss football history.

Ole Miss fans arrive early in the morning on gamedays to gain prime positions available on both sides of the sidewalk and then greet the players with loud cheers and the “Hotty Toddy” chant. Brewer’s vision in 1983, which became one of the most unique college football experiences in the South and nationwide, still continues under current Rebel head coach Matt Luke.

As a youngster growing up in Columbus, Mississippi, Billy Brewer always had a desire to play at Ole Miss and even had visions of one day coaching his beloved Red and Blue.

His first goal became a reality when he signed to play football for Ole Miss following his senior season at S.D. Lee High School. He went on to earn three Rebel letters while playing on three of John Vaught's greatest teams, including the 1959 squad which earned "SEC Team of the Decade" honors after going 10-1 and winning the Southeastern Conference. During Brewer's three-year varsity career, the Rebels compiled a 28-4-1 record. After earning All-SEC defensive honors his senior year, he played in the College All-Star Game in Chicago and then played two years of professional football before entering the coaching profession.

He returned to his hometown of Columbus, Mississippi, to begin his coaching career and became one of the state's best prep coaches. His Lee High and Heritage Academy teams were 70-17-2 when he made the decision to move up in the coaching ranks.

Brewer's first coaching experience on the collegiate level came at Southeastern Louisiana where he served two years as an assistant coach before being named head coach of the Lions in 1974. In six years at the Southeastern helm, Brewer's teams went 38-24-2.

Next came the challenge of attempting to rebuild at Louisiana Tech. He led the Bulldogs to a 19-15-1 record in three years, including a 10-3 showing in 1982 when Tech won the Southland Conference crown and reached the semi-finals of the NCAA Division 1-AA playoffs.

Overall, Brewer's head coaching career record on a collegiate level was 124-95-6. Counting high school, he was 194-112-8 as a head football coach.

PERSONAL

Name: Homer Ervin "Billy" Brewer

Born: October 8, 1934

Wife: The former Kay Gunter (deceased) of Columbus, Miss.

Married: December 20, 1959

Children: Brett and Gunter

Grandchildren: Keaton, Lauren, Blaine, Bailey Katherine, and Brogan

Hobbies: Hunting, Fishing and Jogging

EDUCATION

Lee High School, Columbus, Miss., graduated 1955

University of Mississippi, B.S. in Physical Education, 1961

ATHLETIC

Lee High School: Football, Basketball, Baseball, Track - 1951-55

University of Mississippi: Football (Quarterback, Defensive Back) -- 1958-60

Washington Redskins (NFL) - 1961

Vancouver (B.C.) Lions (CFL) - 1962

HONORS

1955 - Mississippi High School All-Star Game

1959 - All-Southeastern Conference

1960 - College All-Star Game

1993 - Ole Miss "Team of the Century"

2000 - Independence Bowl Hall of Honor

2011 - Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame

2018 - Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame

MILITARY: 6 years Army National Guard

COLLEGIATE COACHING HONORS

1974 - NAIA District 30 Co-Coach of the Year (Southeastern Louisiana)

1982 - Southland Conference Coach of the Year (Louisiana Tech)

Kodak District 7 Coach of the Year (Louisiana Tech)

1983 - Associated Press Southeastern Conference Co-Coach of the Year (Ole Miss)

1986 - United Press International Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year (Ole Miss)

1990 - Birmingham News Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year (Ole Miss)

Nashville Banner Southeastern Coach of the Year (Ole Miss)

Kodak Region 2 Coach of the Year (Ole Miss)

OVERALL HEAD COACHING RECORD: 124-95-6 (20 years)

Southeastern Louisiana - 38-24-2 (6 years)

Louisiana Tech - 19-15-1 (3 years)

Ole Miss - 67-56-3 (11 years)

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 313166

Reported Deaths: 7228
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21496257
Hinds20294414
Harrison17814309
Rankin13573278
Jackson13411246
Madison10066217
Lee9962173
Jones8364163
Forrest7649152
Lauderdale7181240
Lowndes6370145
Lamar621686
Lafayette6171118
Washington5323133
Bolivar4797132
Oktibbeha461498
Panola4561105
Pearl River4499145
Marshall4397103
Warren4380121
Pontotoc419572
Monroe4100133
Union409076
Neshoba4026176
Lincoln3950110
Hancock377786
Leflore3487125
Sunflower335790
Tate332484
Pike3301105
Scott315373
Alcorn311968
Yazoo310769
Itawamba299477
Copiah296465
Simpson294788
Coahoma294379
Tippah287768
Prentiss279560
Adams269582
Marion268880
Leake266273
Wayne262341
Grenada260386
Covington256381
George246848
Newton246061
Winston226881
Tishomingo225967
Jasper220848
Attala214173
Chickasaw207157
Holmes188673
Clay184754
Stone182033
Tallahatchie178140
Clarke177879
Calhoun170132
Yalobusha163337
Smith162234
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125938
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104826
Claiborne102230
Benton99125
Humphreys96133
Kemper95428
Franklin83623
Quitman80216
Choctaw76118
Wilkinson66930
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50317
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530325

Reported Deaths: 10966
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson763971520
Mobile40908804
Madison34717503
Tuscaloosa25730452
Montgomery24314588
Shelby23401249
Baldwin21107307
Lee15856171
Calhoun14488314
Morgan14282279
Etowah13819353
Marshall12210223
Houston10557280
Elmore10044205
Limestone9954150
Cullman9649193
St. Clair9644242
Lauderdale9419241
DeKalb8825185
Talladega8214175
Walker7223277
Autauga6918108
Jackson6804112
Blount6651137
Colbert6292134
Coffee5506119
Dale4828111
Russell440638
Chilton4279112
Franklin425582
Covington4118118
Tallapoosa4019152
Escambia393276
Chambers3559123
Dallas3547151
Clarke350861
Marion3113100
Pike310577
Lawrence299898
Winston274072
Bibb260464
Marengo249264
Geneva249077
Pickens234160
Barbour230757
Hale222677
Butler215969
Fayette212062
Henry188744
Cherokee184445
Randolph179941
Monroe177340
Washington167039
Macon158750
Clay156156
Crenshaw152057
Cleburne148741
Lamar141934
Lowndes138653
Wilcox127030
Bullock123041
Conecuh110129
Perry107526
Coosa107128
Sumter104332
Greene92334
Choctaw60424
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