Curley Byrd: Wikis


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H. C. "Curley" Byrd

Title Head coach
College Maryland
Sport Football
Career highlights
Overall 117-82-15
Coaching stats
College Football DataWarehouse
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1912-1934 Maryland

Harry Clifton "Curley" Byrd (1889-1970) was an American multi-sport athlete, football coach, and university president from 1935 to 1954 at the University of Maryland. He compiled a 119-82-15 record as head football coach. The main athletic facility on campus, Byrd Stadium, is named in his honor.


Early life

Harry Clifton Byrd, one of six children of oysterman and county commissioner William Franklin Byrd and Sallie May Byrd, was born on February 12, 1889, in Crisfield, Maryland. After graduating from Crisfield High School in 1905, he enrolled at the Maryland Agricultural College. There, Byrd was a star athlete and participated in varsity football, baseball, and track. In 1908, Byrd graduated second in his class with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering.

For three years after graduation, Byrd played football and did graduate work in law and journalism at Georgetown University, George Washington University, and Western Maryland College. At Georgetown in 1908, he was one of the first quarterbacks in the East to master the forward pass, several years before Gus Dorais of Notre Dame, who is sometimes credited with the feat.[1][2]

He then covered sports for the Washington Star and coached high school football. In 1912, Byrd pitched for the San Francisco Seals, a semi-professional baseball team in the Pacific Coast League, but returned to Maryland that same year. In 1913, Byrd married Katherine Dunlop Turnbull, although their marriage ended in divorce twenty years later. They had three sons, Harry, Sterling, and William, and one daughter, Evelyn.

Coaching career

After Byrd's return from playing for the San Francisco Seals, the Maryland Agricultural College hired him as a football coach and an instructor in English and history. Because of his sportsmanship and numerous victories, his reputation as a coach grew, and, in 1915, he became the director of athletics. After he was appointed assistant to the president in 1918, Byrd became a leading spokesman for the unification of Maryland Agricultural College with the Baltimore schools to form the University of Maryland and helped plan the legislation that became the Consolidation Act of 1920. By 1932, he had risen to become vice president of the university.

As the football coach, he developed a unique offensive scheme called the "Byrd system", which combined elements of the single-wing and double-wing formations.[3]

Byrd remained an enthusiastic supporter of his alma mater as he advanced through the administrative ranks. In 1921, he named the student newspaper The Diamondback and, in 1933, was directly involved in the adoption of the diamondback terrapin as the University of Maryland mascot.

Administrative career

Byrd became acting president of the university in July 1935 and was officially appointed president in February 1936. Despite criticisms that he was an authoritarian president, Byrd proved to be a popular and charismatic leader who facilitated the significant growth of the University of Maryland in the mid-twentieth century. During his tenure, the annual budget, the number of facilities, the faculty, and student enrollment expanded dramatically. Under Byrd's leadership, the University of Maryland also gained national attention as new educational programs such as American Studies were introduced. Byrd's successful efforts to secure funding for the university from the state and federal governments as well as from private sources supported this growth in size and reputation.

Bob Considine, in his 1941 biography, Curley Byrd Catches the Worm, wrote:[4]

Dictator, president, athletic director, football coach, comptroller, chief lobbyist and glamour boy supreme ... Curley is the most-hated and most-beloved man in Maryland.

Political career

In January 1954, Byrd resigned from the presidency to run an unsuccessful campaign against Theodore McKeldin for Governor of Maryland. In 1964, he lost his bid for the Democratic nomination for U. S. Senate and, in 1966, made an unsuccessful run for U. S. Congress. However, from 1958 into the 1960s, Byrd did hold several gubernatorial appointments: Chairman of the Maryland Tidewater Fisheries Commission, Maryland Commissioner to the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, and Chairman of the Commission on Chesapeake Bay Affairs.

In addition, Byrd was active in the business world as well as fraternal, civic, and international organizations. He was one of three men involved in the merger that resulted in the formation of the Suburban Trust Company, where he later served as vice president. He was also involved in real estate and construction businesses. A member of several fraternal organizations, Byrd served as Supreme Governor of the Loyal Order of the Moose in 1962. Additionally, he organized the College Park Rotary Club and became its first president. Lastly, Byrd was a member of the Defense Orientation Conference Association (D. O. C. A.), a national defense organization which facilitated his travels to other countries.

On October 2, 1970, Byrd died of a heart condition at the University of Maryland Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

Byrd owns the dubious honor of having pushed a then 32 year-old Paul "Bear" Bryant out as head football coach after a single season in 1945. Bryant had coached the Terrapins to a successful 6-2-1 record before a personality conflict between the two prompted Bryant to resign and leave for the University of Kentucky.

Head Coaching Record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl Coaches# AP°
1912 Maryland 6-1-1
1913 Maryland 6-3-0
1914 Maryland 5-3-0
1915 Maryland 6-3-0
1916 Maryland 6-2-0
1917 Maryland 4-3-1
1918 Maryland 4-1-1
1919 Maryland 5-4-0
1920 Maryland 7-2-0
1921 Maryland 3-5-1
1922 Maryland 4-5-1
1923 Maryland 7-2-1
1924 Maryland 3-3-3
1925 Maryland 2-5-1
1926 Maryland 5-4-1
1927 Maryland 4-7-0
1928 Maryland 6-3-1
1929 Maryland 4-4-2
1930 Maryland 7-5-0
1931 Maryland 8-1-1
1932 Maryland 5-6-0
1933 Maryland 3-7-0
1934 Maryland 7-3-0
Total: 117-82-15
Indicates BCS bowl game. #Rankings from final Coaches Poll.

See also

  • Maryland Terrapins football: 1856–1946


  1. ^ Georgetown Football Timeline, Hoya Saxa, retrieved March 21, 2009.
  2. ^ Ted Patterson and Edwin H. Remsberg, Football in Baltimore: History and Memorabilia, 2000, March 25, 2009.
  3. ^ Old Liners Need New Backfield This Season, The Evening Independent, August 30, 1935.
  4. ^ Michael MacCambridge (ed.), ESPN College Football Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Game, ESPN, 2005, ISBN 1-4013-3703-1.

External links

Preceded by
Charley Donnelly
University of Maryland Head Football Coaches
Succeeded by
Jack Faber
Preceded by
Raymond Pearson
President of the University of Maryland, College Park
Succeeded by
Thomas B. Symons


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