Former longtime Virginia coach George Welsh dies at 85
Former Virginia football coach George Welsh, who retired as the ACC's winningest coach and was the league's first coach to win 100 games, died on Wednesday, according to a release by the school. He was 85.
After rebuilding Navy, his alma mater, into a consistent winner, Welsh took over a downtrodden Virginia program in 1982. The Cavaliers had only two winning seasons in the 29 years before he was hired.
But after going 2-9 in his first season, the Cavaliers went 6-5 in his second and won the school's first bowl game in his third -- a 27-24 victory over Purdue in the 1984 Peach Bowl.
From 1987 to 1999, Welsh's teams won at least seven games every season and played in 10 bowl games.
"George Welsh can beat you with his brain," former Alabama and Georgia Tech coach Bill Curry once said.
In 1989, Welsh guided Virginia to a 10-3 record and a share of its first ACC championship -- 35 years after it had joined the league.
The next season, led by quarterback Shawn Moore, tailback Terry Kirby and receiver Herman Moore, the Cavaliers were ranked No. 1 in the country for three weeks before falling to eventual co-national champion Georgia Tech 41-38. The Cavaliers finished 8-4.
In 1995, Welsh guided Virginia to a 9-4 record and a share of its second ACC title. That season included a 33-28 upset of No. 2 Florida State, which was the first time the Seminoles had lost to an ACC opponent since joining the league in 1992.
Welsh retired after a 6-6 season in 2000.
Welsh had a 134-86-3 record in 19 seasons as Virginia's coach. He won the Bobby Dodd Award as the national coach of the year in 1991 and was named ACC Coach of the Year four times -- in 1983, 1984, 1991 and 1995. Welsh was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004.
Curry, whose son, Bill Curry Jr., played for Welsh at Virginia from 1990 to 1993, said Welsh was a lot like his own coach, legendary Georgia Tech coach Bobby Dodd.
"Coach Dodd would get us in the locker room and say, 'They're bigger than us, they're faster than us, and they're stronger than us, but we've got one advantage: We're smarter than them,'" Curry told ESPN. "And we were dumb enough to believe it. When I coached against George, I knew he was smarter than me. We had to go beyond ourselves to beat him because he was just so brilliant, and not only in terms of X's and O's. It was intimidating."
A native of Coaldale, Pennsylvania, Welsh played quarterback at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he was an All-America quarterback and finished third in Heisman Trophy voting in 1955. After spending eight years in the Navy, Welsh was hired as an assistant at Penn State in 1963.
He returned to coach the Midshipmen in 1973 and had a 55-46-1 record in nine seasons. His teams went 7-1-1 against Army and played in three bowl games.
Welsh's wife of 52 years, Alexandra, died in 2015. He is survived by their four children.