Harold Tilley, who led a renaissance of Boll Weevil football at the University of Arkansas at Monticello in the late 1970s and early 1980s, died today. He was 86.
Tilley’s seven-year record of 39-29-1 from 1978 to 1984 places him second in wins and fifth in winning percentage at UAM.
In the decade prior to Tilley’s arrival, the Boll Weevils were 26-71-2 and had not won a conference championship in 12 years. After an initial 5-6 campaign in 1978, Tilley guided the Weevils to a 9-2 record in 1979 while winning the outright championship of the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference and narrowly missing a spot in the NAIA Division I national playoffs. Tilley was named the AIC Coach of the Year. In 1981, Tilley led the Weevils to a 7-2 mark that included an upset of No. 1-ranked Henderson State and in 1983 directed a team picked to finish near the bottom of the league to a 6-2-1 record.
A native of Warren, Tilley graduated from Little Rock High School (now Little Rock Central) in 1950 after playing on three state championship teams under Wilson Matthews. Tilley served two years on a Navy minesweeper before attending Henderson State, where he started three years at end for the Reddies, earning All-AIC honors his senior year. He received a BS.E. in physical education from Henderson in 1957 and an M.S.E. in 1963.
Tilley began his coaching career in 1957 as an assistant football coach at Pine Bluff Junior High School. From 1961-63, he served as line coach and head basketball coach at England, then spent two years at Marshall, Tex., rebuilding the football program while winning a district basketball championship. Tilley left Marshall to become defensive coordinator at Houston’s Spring Branch High School, a Texas prep powerhouse. During Tilley’s four years at Spring Branch, the school posted a 34-9-1 record and reached the finals of the Texas state playoffs.
In 1969, Tilley was selected to help start an athletic program at Northwood Institute in Dallas before returning to Arkansas in 1972 as head football coach at Pine Bluff High School. Tilley made the Zebras a state power, posting a 10-1 record in 1975 and winning a share of the Class 5A title in 1977.
A funeral service will be held on Thursday, September 20, at 11 a.m. at Stephenson-Dearman Funeral Home in Monticello. Visitation will be held at the funeral home one hour prior to the service. Burial with military honors will be at Pinecrest Memorial Cemetery in Alexander, Arkansas.