Legendary UVA football coach George Welsh passes away at 85

Posted at 10:26 AM, Jan 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-04 10:59:16-05

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The family of George Welsh, a College Football Hall of Fame coach who led UVA for almost two decades, announced the passing of the 85-year-old. 

According to the University of Virginia, Welsh died Wednesday peacefully and surrounded by family.

Welsh led the Cavaliers from 1982 to 2000, bringing UVA to its first bowl appearance and win in 1984 when it beat Purdue in the Peach Bowl. His Peach Bowl win would foreshadow 13 straight seasons with seven or more wins beginning in 1987, which would bring ACC titles in 1989 and 1995 and 11 additional bowl appearances.

Welsh was honored many times for his work with the Cavaliers, who had experienced only two winning campaigns in its previous 29 seasons before his tenure, becoming ACC Coach of the Year four times — 1983, 1984, 1991 and 1995. At the end of the 1991 season, he would also be honored nationally, winning the Bobby Dodd Award for national coach of the year.

Welsh in during his 28-year career was 189-132-4 and led teams to 15 bowl appearances. Before coming to Charlottesville, Welsh coached the United States Naval Academy from 1973 to 1981, finishing with a 55-46-1 record as head of the Midshipmen program. This at the time was most wins of any football coach in the history of the Academy’s program.

Many former players, media members and coaches took to social media Friday to express what Welsh meant to them.

“Deeply saddened to hear the news of the passing of George Welsh, said former UVA running back and 12-year NFL veteran Thoman Q. Jones. “He came to Appalachia, Virginia, 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.”

A native of Coaldale, Pennsylvania, Welsh was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004. He was named to the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.

Welsh played his college football at the United States Naval Academy from 1952 to 1955 and finished third in the 1955 Heisman Trophy voting.

The University of Virginia dedicated its new indoor practice facility in Welsh’s name before the 2014 season.

After serving in the Navy to fulfill his military obligation, Welsh would start his coaching career as an assistant coach under Rip Engle and Joe Paterno at Penn State from 1963 to 1972.

For 52 years Welsh was married to his wife, Alexandra, before she passed away in 2015. They have four children. Kate, Duffy, Matt and Adam.