Former WIU & EIU head coach Darrell Mudra passes away at 93

Darrell Mudra (kneeling) and his 1978 Eastern Illinois coaching staff, including Mike Shanahan (far right). (Photo by EIU Athletics)

By Dan Verdun

Former football coach Darrell Mudra, 93, of Crawfordville, Fla. has died according to a tweet from Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley.

Mudra, a 2000 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, was known for resurrecting struggling football programs in his career.

In fact, Mudra was given the nickname “Dr. Victory,” by The Chicago Tribune following an unexpected run by Eastern Illinois to the 1978 NCAA Division II national championship. The Panthers had been 1-10 the previous season under head coach John Konstantinos.

The “Dr. Victory” moniker was also a reference to Mudra’s academic doctorate in psychology.

“It didn’t bother me at all. I always felt my doctorate was a factor in getting me my jobs in football,” Mudra said in the 2014 book EIU Panthers Football, published by Northern Illinois University Press.

Mudra’s 1978 EIU staff included 25-year-old offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan and 27-year-old defensive coordinator John Teerlinck.

Shanahan, a former Eastern quarterback whose playing career ended with a serious injury, later coached the Denver Broncos to consecutive Super Bowl titles.

Teerlinck, who died in 2020, won three Super Bowls as a defensive line coach with Denver and Indianapolis. The annual award for the NFL’s best defensive line coach is named after Teerlinck, a former Western Illinois and NFL player.

Mudra compiled a 47-15-1 record during his time as EIU head coach. His 1980 Panthers were national runners-up. Mudra was inducted into the EIU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1982.

According to his National Football Foundation biography, “Mudra retired from collegiate football in 1988 bringing an end to a Hall of Fame career, which boasts a 200-81-4 record and two national championships.”

Mudra started his collegiate head coaching career at Adams State (Colo.) in 1959 and led the team to the 1962 Mineral Bowl, where it defeated Northern Illinois 23-20.

In 1963 he became the head coach at North Dakota State where he successfully turned the program around from a 0-10 record to a 1964 Mineral Bowl victory.

In 1965 he won his first national championship defeating Grambling 20-7 in the Pecan Bowl.

He then coached the University of Arizona for two seasons and led them to the 1968 Sun Bowl.

National Football Foundation photo

Mudra coached Western Illinois from 1969 to 1973. He posted a 39-13 record with the Leathernecks. Mudra was inducted into the WIU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1990.

Pete Rodriquez was a longtime Mudra assistant and later was the WIU head coach from 1979-82.

“Darrell was one of the greatest coaches in the history of college football, yet a lot of people don’t know about him,” said Rodriquez in 2014. “Darrell saw the best in people. He didn’t get sidetracked with stereotypes. You trusted in Darrell.”

After a successful stint at Western Illinois, Mudra coached Florida State for two years before winning the Division II title at EIU.

Mudra left Eastern and began coaching at Northern Iowa in 1986, where he coached Farley. During his tenure there, he led the team to the I-AA semifinals in 1985 and 1987.

The Panthers were ranked fourth nationally at the end of the 1987 season and lost to the eventual national champion Northeast Louisiana 44-41 in overtime. He was named Kodak Region 4 Coach of the Year in 1985 while at UNI.

“Mudra was nicknamed ‘Dr. Victory’ because of his success at each level, but always shied away from all of the accolades, preferring to let his assistants and players take the credit,” states his National Football Foundation biography.

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