Monday, October 5, 2009

Passing of a coaching giant

When Gene Mayfield died Friday morning, it was the passing of one of the area's football coaching giants. He was inducted into the Texas High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 2005, which seems rather late in light of his accomplishments.

Mayfield, 81, played football first at Quitaque in Hall County, and then was West Texas State's starting quarterback on its 1950 Sun Bowl championship team. That prepped him for an outstanding coaching career, especially in Borger and Odessa Permian.

Mayfield went to Borger in 1958 after a stint at Littlefield. He guided Borger to the 1962 4A (now 5A) state title game where the injury-riddled Bulldogs narrowly lost to San Antonio Brackenridge, 30-26. It's still the last time a Panhandle team has played for the state football title in the state's largest classification.

But it was Mayfield who created the Odessa Permian dynasty. He created the monster, and everyone else had to feed it. In his first year at the relatively new school in 1965, Mayfield's Panthers won the 4A state crown, 11-6, over San Antonio Lee.

In six years at Permian, Mayfield's teams went 61-10-2. His '68 and '70 teams were state runners-up. The famous "Mojo" tradition began in 1968. What Mayfield started has resulted in six state titles, five state runners-up, and no doubt, if not for him, there never would have been a best-selling book and TV series, "Friday Night Lights."

Mayfield went on to coach at his alma mater, West Texas State, from 1971-76 where he didn't have the success as he did in high school. He would finish his coaching career at Levelland High School. Levelland was where he retired.

Mayfield was a member of the Texas Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame, but his impact reaches further than that. He is revered to this day in the Permian Basin.

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