Billy J. "Spook" Murphy
1921 - 2008
J. "Spook" Murphy, retired Athletic Director and head football coach of
the University of Memphis, died February 21, 2008, at a retirement and
care facility in Memphis. The respect he garnered not only came from
his more than 30 years work at the University of Memphis but also before
that in service to his country. Billy Murphy served as a U.S. Marine in
the South Pacific during World War II and received the Bronze Star, the
Presidential Citation and the Navy Citation.
"Spook" Murphy got
his nickname during his playing days at Mississippi State University,
where he was selected to the Associated Press 1941 All-Southeastern
Conference team as a tailback on the football squad. He was selected as
captain of the team for the 1943 season, which was never played due to
the war. Joining the Marine Corps Reserve, Murphy was sent to Duke
University for the military's V-12 student program and he
played one season of football there.
After the war, Murphy
returned to Mississippi State for a final football season and to
complete the requirements for his degree. After graduation, he became
an assistant football coach at Memphis State (a former name of the
University of Memphis). After 5 years he went back to his alma mater to
assist head Bulldog coach Murray Warmath. Murphy followed Warmath to
the University of Minnesota where he coached for 4 years before
returning to Memphis State late in 1957 to take the head coaching job.
Murphy assembled a 91-44-1 record as head coach at Memphis, finishing
with a win in the 1971 Pasadena Bowl. At that point he was the 11th in
the nation among active coaches in won-loss records and 15th in the
number of games won. Murphy had become athletic director at the school
as well as continuing as head football coach in 1966. In 1972 he
retired from coaching but continued as athletic director at Memphis for several years.
Among Coach Murphy's awards were being named the
National Coach of the Year by the Detroit News in 1963, the National
In-Print Award in 1963, inductee into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame
in 1975, induction into the Mississippi State Hall of Fame in 1977 and
induction into the University of Memphis M Club Hall of Fame in 1982.
Murphy was named the Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year three
times in the 1960s. He received the 18th annual Citizenship Award from
the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Memphis Civitan Award in 1963 and was
awarded the Distinguished American Award from the American Football
Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame in 1976.