Former Tennessee State football coach Joe Gilliam Sr., 89, died on Wednesday, school officials confirmed.
Gilliam served as the defensive coordinator from 1963-81 under John Merritt and then took over the program in 1989. He led the Tigers for four seasons and was named the Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year in 1990.
“The passing of coach Joe Gilliam has cast a sadness across the Tiger nation this evening,” athletics director Teresa Phillips said. “A great teacher, a genius coach, a developer of men, he will be missed but never forgotten in the hearts and souls of all who bleed blue.”
Gilliam was also head coach at Kentucky State from 1957-58 and was assistant at Jackson State before coming to TSU with Merritt.
He put together a career record — as a head coach and assistant coach — of 254-93-15, including 164 wins at TSU. He also was a part of five undefeated teams and won 10 black college national championships. He coached 144 players who made it to the NFL, including Richard Dent and Ed “Too Tall” Jones. In 2011, Gilliam was Dent’s presenter at his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction.
Gilliam was inducted into the TSU Sports Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. Gilliam’s son, Joe Jr., was a two-time All-American quarterback and played for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1972-75.