Hall of Fame Brooke High Football Coach ‘Bud’ Billiard dies at 79
For Paul “Bud” Billiard, it didn’t matter.
Whether it involved his family, teaching, coaching or even his service to Brooke County, Billiard was always all about the kids.
And that dedication to the youth of Brooke County is how he is being remembered by many who knew him well after his death Tuesday morning at the age of 79.
“Budro did so many positive things,” an emotional Ron Mauck, who was the Brooke High School Director of Athletics during much of Billiard’s coaching tenure, said. “He gave his life to what he believed in. And that was kids. And you really can’t ask for any more from someone than that.”
Billiard is most well known for the 23 highly successful seasons spent as the Bruins football coach. He guided Brooke to 185 wins and three Class AAA state championships in that span.
While the rate at which he won was impressive, the way he went about his business and carried himself played just as big of a role in leading to his spot in countless halls of fame, including the OVAC’s.
“We didn’t always agree on everything, but he did so many great things,” Mauck said. “He had such great foresight in so many areas. His number one priority was always the kids.”
It was those kids, who Billiard valued so greatly, that helped him forge a legacy that won’t ever be forgotten not only in Brooke County, but across the entire Ohio Valley.
“My daughter called me (about Billiard) and told me the news (Tuesday morning), and she said, ‘it felt like someone took all of the air out of Brooke County,” Mauck, who lives in Warwood, admitted. “That’s the kind of impact he had on everyone and every thing he was involved with in the county.”
Billiard ascended to the role of head coach after spending three seasons as the Bruins defensive coordinator under Sonny Ray.
Brooke established itself as one of the Mountain State and valley’s premier big-school programs officially in 1985 when it claimed the state championship.
The Bruins won another title in 1987, following what the basketball team had accomplished the preceding March. Brooke was ranked in the final USA Today National Poll that season at 25th.
“I remember being on the court, celebrating, the (basketball) state championship, and I get a tap on my shoulder and there was Budro as one of the first guys to congratulate me,” Dave Reitter, who served as Billiard’s assistant for many years and was the head basketball coach in 1987, said. “While football was always first for Budro, he was definitely proud of all of the accomplishments the kids had.”
Just a few months prior to the Bruins winning that 1985 state championship, Reitter, who had been out of football coaching for a few years, got called into the hallway by Billiard for a conversation that eventually turned out to be an interview.
“He asked me to be on his staff and serve as the defensive coordinator,” Reitter explained. “It was such an honor to even be asked to be on the staff, but to serve as his defensive coordinator? That was something even more special.”
Billiard and Reitter worked together for upwards of a decade, but the former stepped away prior to the 1990 season, which was actually one of the Bruins’ best teams ever. The Bruins won Billiard his final state championship and were ranked 23rd in the nation.
The Bruins were undefeated again in 1994, but fell in the state championship game. All told, Billiard-led squads qualified for the playoffs 15 times and played for seven state championships. He won seven OVAC championships.
Reitter actually took over for Billiard as the head football coach in 2002. Quite simply, he wanted to do his best to continue what Billiard had built.
“Budro actually asked me why I was applying for the job because it was tough on him when he got out,” Reitter explained. “I simply told him I wanted to continue the program the way he started it and continue to build on the great football tradition.”
One of the main things that Reitter took away from coaching under Billiard wasn’t one defensive scheme or a certain play. It was simply how he dealt with the kids.
“Bud always had the kids at heart,” Reitter said. “He wanted them to be successful in everything. He was the kind of guy who when the kids needed something or didn’t have the best family life, he tried to fill that role. He made that a big part of (his) coaching. I really took a lot of that with me when I took over football and as I coached basketball.”
On top of his football coaching, Billiard spent six years as the head wrestling coach. He was inducted to the prestigious OVAC Mr. Mat fraternity. He also coached track and field for three seasons.
“All of Brooke County is hurting right now because Budro built this place,” current Brooke head football coach Mac McLean, who played under Billiard from 1990-93, said of the athletic traditions. “We’re just fortunate enough to coach and play in it now. If all of us could help as many people as he helped throughout the school, community and entire county, we’d be all in a much better world.
Though he was retired from coaching and teaching, Billiard remained heavily involved in Brooke County. He worked diligently with the Brooke Hills Park. The disc golf course there now bears his and his wife Carol’s names.
The Brooke Hills Park posted on its Facebook page, “We lost an amazing man in our county. Paul “Bud” Billiard, you gave your heart and time to this Park and to everyone here! You have touched the lives of so many and have given us tons of memories that we will hold dear in our hearts forever! Rest in Peace Coach! You will be greatly missed. We love you!”
There’s no doubt that sentiment rings true all over Brooke County.