Saturday, February 26, 2011

Emory Ballard

Almost missed this.

Emory Ballard died earlier this month. In 1968 he was an offensive coordinator for Daryl Royal at Texas, where he invented the wishbone formation.

Later on as head coach at Mississippi State, he 'broke' the 'bone by putting a wingback on one side or the other and bringing him in motion. This ultimately lead to the flexbone formations seen today at the service academies, Georgia Tech, and others (including our FCCJC ONW Ravens 2018 teams.)

You can read more about the history of Emory Ballard here, and the wishbone formation here.

When I started playing youth football in 1972, everybody knew about the wishbone of course, because Texas won about 30 games in a row and two national championships running it.

We started using it on my youth team in 1974 because our coaches had seen Oklahoma start running it, and they thought it was the wave of the future.

I'm pretty sure that influential KU alumni must have seen our Indian Hills Warriors running the wishbone and decided then and there to hire Bud Moore, an Alabama assistant coach, to bring the formation to the hill.

(Bud probably wasn't a great head coach, but he had a great safety from Ransom, Kansas named Nolan Cromwell. The 'Ransom Rambler' as Tom Hedrick used to call him, was turned by Coach Moore into one of the very best option quarterbacks ever. He held the single game rushing record for quarterbacks for many, many years. KU lost to Pittsburgh and Tony Dorsett in the '75 Sun Bowl. We wuz robbed - I spoke to Cromwell about it when I saw him at a wedding in 1976, and he agreed. So there.)

As a long-time high school coach, Ballard was probably influenced by a Fort Worth, Texas junior-high coach named Charles 'Spud' Cason, who was having success with a third back in the backfield. And Ballard himself had seen another high school coach put a offensive guard in the backfield to give him a running start.  When Royal asked him to create a three-back triple option offense for the Longhorns in '68, undoubtedly those memories were influential.

Nevertheless, Ballard was the first one to introduce the system at the college level, and he really organized and perfected it.

It is amazing to me that the imagination of a long-time high school football coach ended up touching so many lives, and creating so much athletic history.