(Abilene, TX – July 27, 2021) McMurry University is remembering the legacy of Jessie W. “Spud” Aldridge, Jr., as we learned of his passing on Monday, July 26, 2021. Coach Aldridge led the McMurry Football from 1976-81 and had one of the most successful runs in program history. He later served as athletic director from 1986-1995.
In his six seasons leading the McMurry football program to prominence, Aldridge finished with a career record of 36-27 for a .571-win percentage over six seasons. He ranks third on the all-time wins list and ranks second behind Wilford Moore for highest win percentage among coaches with at least five seasons at the helm. He was honored in both 1978 and 1980 as National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) District VIII Coach of the year. He was also honored in 1980 as McMurry Alumni Coach of the Year and a nominee for the NAIA National Coach of the Year award.
Aldridge’s most successful season came in 1980 when the team finished with a 9-2 overall record and a 9-1 conference record. He led McMurry to a Texas Intercollegiate Athletic Association (TIAA) conference championship and an NAIA Quarterfinal appearance.
Aldridge took over a McMurry football program that was floundering prior to his arrival and guided the team for six seasons. Under his leadership, McMurry experienced some of the most successful seasons on the gridiron. In 1978, 1978 and 1980, the team was ranked among the NAIA Division II Top-20. The 1980 squad won the TIAA championship, and was ranked No. 6 in the NAIA and advanced to the NAIA national playoffs (becoming the school’s first-ever football team to reach a national playoff).
Aldridge produced 38 first team All-TIAA players and 18 NAIA All-Americans, who generated 26 team and individual TIAA records. Among those marks were single game marks of 449 rushing yards versus Colorado College and 645 yards of total offense versus Austin College.
A proud alumnus, Aldridge enrolled at McMurry University, formerly McMurry College, in 1950 after graduating from Lawn High School. During his collegiate career, he was an officer in IHR, a member of the Physical Education Majors and Minors Club, and the Future Teachers of America. His college career was interrupted by two years of service in the U.S. Army from 1954-56, but returned to McMurry and earned his bachelor’s degree in history, government and physical education in 1956, and proceeded to earn a Master in education from McMurry in 1958.
Unviersity President Sandra S. Harper recalled, as she remembers Spud, the impact he has had on McMurry for more than 40 years. “From his time as head football coach and later athletic director, Spud molded, shaped, and prepared McMurry’s scholar-athletes for their leadership roles today. Students today continue to benefit from his generosity when he spearheaded a six-figure campaign that has transformed the athletics’ strength and conditioning facilities. What a monumental impact Spud has had on McMurry; he will be missed.”
Reflecting on Aldridge’s legacy, Dr. Sam Ferguson, Vice President of Student Affairs and Intercollegiate Athletics, discussed the monumental role he played at McMurry. “Coach Spud was a tremendous man and leader who loved McMurry and that love was reciprocated! It was always a pleasure seeing him support us at games and we are grateful for the active role he continued to play in our department as an ambassador of McMurry Athletics. We are drinking from wells that Spud helped to dig. McMurry, the City of Abilene, and our world are better places because we were all touched by Spud. We are grateful for his life and his love for McMurry!”
In remembering Coach Spud, current Head Football Coach Jordan Neal notes his long-lasting impact on McMurry’s athletic program. “As one of the all-time winningest coach in the program’s history, and as someone who had forgotten more about life and football than most of us may ever know, Coach Spud set the absolute highest standard for what McMurry Football is and should be. From day one, Coach has supported, cheered for, and mentored me, our coaches, and our players. McMurry Football is a proud and sacred tradition in vast part because of Coach Spud’s great influence. He will be greatly missed, but forever honored and remembered as one of the very best. It is an incredible challenge and responsibility to lead a program that will be worthy of the great man he was!”
McMurry University will be hosting a reception to honor Coach Aldridge.