Pop Ivy: Third Head Coach in Oiler History

By DILLON HOLLOWAY

Born January 25, 1916, in Skiatook, Okla., Lee Frank “Pop” Ivy served as a player, coach, and scout for multiple football franchises.

He holds the distinction of being the only person coach in the NFL, the AFL, and the Western Interprovincial Football Union (a forerunner to the Canadian Football League) in a coaching and scouting career that spanned 36 seasons.

Ivy earned his nickname due to premature baldness in college while playing at both offensive end and defensive end at the University of Oklahoma.

While at Oklahoma, he played both offense and defense for the
Sooners, earning All-American honors in 1939.

Ivy was known as an iron-man athlete for never missing a game
and never leaving the field as a Sooner.

His most fabled moment came against Oklahoma’s archrival as he caught a deflected pass against the Texas Longhorns for the go-ahead touchdown.

In the 1940 NFL Draft, Ivy was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers but was traded in October of his rookie season to the Chicago Cardinals, where he played through the 1947 season and continued in iron-man mode throughout his pro career as he’d done in college.

His best season came in 1942 when he finished second in the league with 27 receptions, bested by legendary Don Hutson.

Ivy capped his playing career by helping the Cardinal franchise win its only NFL championship in 1947.

Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkinson (wearing tie) schemes in 1949 with assistants (L-R) Gomer Jones, Frank “Pop” Ivy, and Bill Jennings.

Immediately following his playing career, he entered the coaching ranks as an assistant at his alma mater, coaching alongside the legendary Oklahoma Head Coach Bud Wilkinson.

Wilkinson and Ivy helped popularize the Split-T formation and guided the Sooners to the 1950 national championship.

Ivy then headed north in 1954 to coach the WIFU’s Edmonton Eskimos, leading them to three straight Grey Cup championships from 1954-56 and finishing with a 50-14 record.

A man well ahead of his time, Ivy was considered an innovator in Canadian football, accelerating its wide-open game by using the twin fullback system, the quick-snap, and the short kickoff.

In addition, he schemed the formation known as the “lonesome quarterback,” the precursor to today’s shotgun formation.

After four seasons in Canada, Ivy returned to the NFL to coach the Chicago/St. Louis Cardinals, posting a 17-31-2 record in four seasons before finishing his head coaching career in the AFL with the Houston Oilers.

During his time with the Oilers, he compiled a 17-12 record in two seasons and guided Houston to a conference title and a heartbreaking overtime loss in the 1962 championship.

Before the 1963 campaign, Ivy inked a two-year deal with the Oilers that gave him complete personnel authority.

After posting an 11-3 mark in 1962, the Oilers slipped to a 6-8 record in 1963, their first losing season in franchise history, but Ivy’s job appeared to be secure.

During the offseason, Ivy hired former college and pro standout player Sammy Baugh as an assistant coach in May 1964 but, like numerous Houston head coaches before and after him, was shockingly fired by Oilers owner Bud Adams on June 1 and replaced by Baugh.

Ivy would never serve again as a head coach, but he went on to spend another 20 years in various coaching roles and as a scout with the NFL’s New York Giants before retiring in 1984.

He passed away in 2003 in Norman, Okla., at age 87.

Dillon Holloway is a native Mississippian currently residing in central Oklahoma. He is a rabid football fan and a historian of the sport. He is a husband, a military officer, volunteer teacher and football coach, and emerging guest speaker. He graduated from the University of Mississippi with a bachelor’s in English and a minor in aerospace studies. He played football from pee-wee through high school, winning the 2A Midsouth Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) state championship and was named first-team all-district guard in 2011. Since his first football practice, he has always made the sport a part of his life in some fashion, and writing for Miss Ya Blue! allows him to continue to do so.

#houston #oilers #htown #houstontx #houstonoilers #nfl #astrodome #sports #star #history #football #luvyablue #missyablue #texas #houstonblogger

Leave a Reply