Long-time BD football coach passes


Staff report

Veteran football coach Bob Wilbur, who coached his alma mater Ben Davis from 1973-83, passed away earlier this week after a long illness.

Wilbur died less than two weeks after watching former player Morten Andersen get inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the first Giant to receive that recognition.

A native of Denmark, Andersen told the story of his first introduction into American football and how it happened here at Ben Davis.  He said that looking back, that “singular moment” changed his life.

“Coach Wilbur, I am grateful for your vision. You saw a young kid with raw talent and gave him the opportunity of a lifetime. Without that, I’m not standing here today. Thank you, coach,” Andersen said.

That was the last time many of us saw Coach Wilbur, sitting in the crowd, smiling with his blue eyes twinkling, as his former player was honored as one of the best players ever.  Coach Wilbur passed away on Tuesday, August 15.

When Coach Wilbur was hired as the head coach at Ben Davis in 1973, he took over a team that had historically had trouble establishing a winning tradition.  From 1937 to 1972, the Giants had won only 96 of 313 games.

That was about to change. Coach Wilbur’s Giants strung together five-straight winning seasons for the first time in program history from 1975-1979.  The 1977 team came within one game of playing for a 3A State Championship after knocking off Dick Dullaghan’s Carmel Greyhounds in the Sectional.  The Giants lost to Evansville Reitz in the Regional finals.  By the time Coach Wilbur relinquished the head coaching job to Dullaghan after the 1983 season, he had won 59 games.

He was, to that point, the winningest coach in Ben Davis history.  Since 1973 to the end of last season, the Giants have won 378 games, eight State Championships, and have a winning percentage of .716.

Wilbur continued to touch lives after his time as a teacher and coach as a guidance counselor and drivers education instructor at Ben Davis.

Viewing for Wilbur is tentatively planned for 2-7 p.m. Sunday at Conkle Funeral Home in Speedway.