Hall of Fame Head Coach & Virginia Football Legend George Welsh Passes Away

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Rest in peace, Coach Welsh. ~ Photo courtesy of Virginia Athletics

The University of Virginia community mourns the loss of an icon in former Cavalier head football coach George Welsh, who passed away on Wednesday, January 2 according to his family. He was 85 years old.

Welsh brought the Cavalier football program to prominence during his 19-year tenure in Charlottesville. Hired by UVA in 1982, he compiled a 134-86-3 record and led the Cavaliers to 12 bowl game appearances by the time he retired in 2000. The Hoos defeated Purdue in the 1984 Peach Bowl in Welsh’s third season as a head coach. By that time Virginia had had two winning seasons, equaling the amount of winning seasons the program enjoyed in the 29 years prior to Welsh’s arrival.

Under Welsh, Virginia won a school record 10 games in 1989 and won nine games in three other seasons (1994, 1995, 1998). Additionally, with Coach Welsh at the helm the Hoos captured a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference title twice (1989, 1995), reached No. 1 in both college football polls for two weeks in October of 1990, and in 1995 became the first ACC team to defeat Florida State after the powerhouse Seminoles joined the conference in 1992.

Virginia football endured only two losing seasons (1982, 1986) with Coach Welsh as head coach. From 1987 to 1999, he guided the program to 13 consecutive seasons of seven wins or more.

Welsh spent his playing days at the Naval Academy, where he became an All-American quarterback in 1955. He would become Navy’s head coach in 1973, spending nine seasons there before being hired to the same position at Virginia. Coach Welsh compiled an 189-132-4 record in 28 years as a head coach, earning induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. He received the Bobby Dodd Award as national coach of the year in 1991 and captured ACC Coach of the Year honors four times (1983, 1984, 1991, 1995).

Response to Coach Welsh’s passing has been overwhelming, with current administration and coaches, former players, media, and even opponents commenting on his legacy (all of the below responses were found on Twitter).

“I’m saddened to learn of the passing of a great man, my UVA Football head coach, George Welsh. He had his quirks that that would make us laugh, but he was such a strong teacher and motivator, and always got the best out of us. Rest In Peace, coach.” – Former Virginia and NFL running back Tiki Barber

“Rest In Paradise Coach Welsh. Thanks for providing a young knuckle head from Hampton/Newport News, an opportunity to play for UVA, while also receiving a top notch education. Thanks for all your talks and teachings. Better believe your voice will continued to be heard.” – Former Virginia wide receiver Ahmad Hawkins

“Deeply saddened to hear the news of the passing of George Welsh. He came to Appalachia VA, sat in my living room and told me I would play as a true freshman and he would give me every opportunity to make it to the NFL. The best coach I’ve ever played for. Rest well Coach Welsh.” – Former Virginia and NFL running back Thomas Jones

“Best decision I ever made was to go to UVA and play for George (90-94). Quirky as hell, but I loved him. Great Coach. Great Staff. Great Teammates. Great people around the program. And we won a ton of games putting UVA fball on the map! RIP Coach Welsh.” – Former Virginia defensive lineman and NFL player Ryan Kuehl

“Heaven gained a great Coach and Great Mentor. Thank you for giving me a scholarship and opportunity to play for you and the @UVAFootball at @UVA #wahoowa #CoachGeorgeWelsh #gohoosgo” – Former Virginia wide receiver Tavon Mason

“Words can’t express what I feel right now in this moment! This man meant so much to so many! Thank you coach for all that you have done for me and my life. You will be missed! RIP.” – Former Virginia linebacker and current East Carolina assistant coach Byron Thweatt

“I am saddened to hear that Coach Welsh passed away this week. My condolences go out to his family. He was a true pioneer for UVA football and provided the model of success we are working hard to replicate. We will miss his frequent visits to the football offices.” – Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall

“A man who spoke very few words but impacted so many lives. Although I never got to play for you coach, thank you for being the first to believe I could play QB on the college level. We’ll miss you coach Welsh Rest In Peace.” – Virginia wide receivers coach and former Cavalier player Marques Hagans, who was recruited to Virginia by Welsh

“My thoughts and prayers are with Kate, Duffy, Matt, Adam and the Welsh Family. I cherished the opportunity to visit with Coach about UVA football. I asked a ton of questions and he graciously answered all of them. He was always willing to help. RIP Coach.” – Virginia Director of Athletics Carla Williams

“Our condolences on the passing of a great coach & wonderful gentleman from all us at @Virginia_Tech #RIPCoachWelsh” – Virginia Tech Football

“Condolences to the family of Coach Welsh. Coach Welsh made UVA better in every way, and in turn, pushed VT to improve its program as well. He showed us all that Virginia HS kids could play championship football. At Navy and at UVA he won with class.” – Former Virginia Tech play-by-play announcer Bill Roth

“Beyond saddened. Coach made #UVa football.” – Daily Press Hall of Fame writer David Teel

“This comment from [Ahmad Hawkins] says it all: “Coach Welsh was one of a kind. RIP, Coach.” – VirginiaSports.com writer Jeff White

“Just heard the news on George Welsh. Not sure it is possible to understand the remarkable turnarounds he engineered at both Navy and Virginia. First football game I ever covered for The Post was Navy at UConn. George went out of his way to make me comfortable postgame.” – John Feinstein

“Definitely one of the most underrated coaches of his time. RIP” – Fox Sports writer Bruce Feldman

“If it’s possible to be underrated as a Hall of Fame coach, that was George Welsh. Great coach.” – Jon Solomon, formerly of CBS Sports

“Virginia has finished ranked in the AP poll nine times. George Welsh coached six of those teams in 19 years, including the 1990 squad, which was the only one to reach No. 1 (or the top 5). And the school’s only two ACC champions. Also finished third in Heisman vote as a player.” – The Athletic writer Matt Brown

“RIP Coach Welsh! Got to know Coach Welsh in the 90’s. Totally different guy “off the record”. Best thing I ever heard one of his Assistant Coaches say about him was; “when Coach Welsh joined your drill the intensity instantly rose” True credit to his profession. #staywithcoach” – Gary Criswell, former football coach and currently a high school football color analyst with AM 910 Richmond

“There are few men in college athletics that I enjoyed more to watch work than George Welsh, first at Navy and later UVa. He passed away Wednesday. RIP, Coach. @UVAFootball” – Bob Rathbun of Raycom Sports

“George Welsh accomplished what everyone said was impossible — win at UVA in football. Before GW, ‘Hoos had never been to a bowl, won an ACC title, recruited #1 player in the nation or ranked #1. He put UVA f’ball on the map. RIP ‘Ol Cap tosser!” – Mike Lewis (aka Mikeysurf)

Quotes courtesy of David Teel from three Virginia legendary players …

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