Former Tulane head coach Buddy Teevens dies at 66
Eugene “Buddy” Teevens, who spent five seasons as Tulane’s head football coach as part of a full-circle career in a sport he impacted far beyond Xs and Os, died Tuesday, six months after a serious bicycle accident. He was 66.
Teevens arrived in New Orleans in December 1991 after leading his alma mater, Dartmouth, to Ivy League titles as both a player and head coach. He coached at Tulane from 1992-96.
After serving as head coach at Stanford and an assistant at Florida and Illinois, Teevens would return to the Big Green as head coach in 2005 and capture three more Ivy League championships in the last 17 years.
“Our family is heartbroken to inform you that our beloved ‘coach’ has peacefully passed away surrounded by family. Unfortunately, the injuries he sustained proved too challenging for even him to overcome,” the Teevens family said in a statement. “Throughout this journey, we consistently relayed the thoughts, memories, and love sent his way. Your kindness and letters of encouragement did not go unnoticed and were greatly appreciated by both Buddy and our family.”
Tulane released a statement on social media, saying in part, “His contributions here, and particularly his strong advocacy for player safety, has left an indelible mark on all levels of football. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”
Teevens sustained significant injuries when he was hit by a pick-up truck while riding his bicycle in St. Augustine, Florida, on the evening of March 16. A month later, he had his right leg amputated. In the summer, his rehabilitation was moved to Boston, closer to family and friends.
Former Tulane athletic director Kevin White, who hired Teevens, described him as “a world-class human being who was beloved by everyone who crossed his path.”
Former Tulane quarterback Shaun King started at quarterback in Teevens’ final two seasons.
“I owe a lot to Coach Teevens because he gave a young Black kid from St. Petersburg (Florida) a chance to play quarterback, and that just wasn’t the norm in 1995,” King said. “I have so much respect for Buddy Teevens. He was willing to give me an opportunity to play quarterback. I’ll always be indebted to him.”
His impact in the New Orleans area was far more than wins and losses on the field over five years.
Prior to his final season at Tulane, Teevens joined with the Manning family to host the first-ever Manning Passing Academy on Tulane’s campus. He remained an integral part of the event over the next quarter-century as it moved to Hammond and eventually to the Nicholls campus in Thibodaux.
In June, Teevens missed his first-ever Manning Passing Academy.
“Buddy’s been the rock,” Archie Manning said in June. “He brought in our coaches, he ran our practice sessions, all these qualities he has as a … very successful coach.”
Tommy Bowden succeeded Teevens following the 1996 season and quickly realized the cupboard was not bare. Introducing an offensive scheme not previously seen on the FBS level, Tulane went 7-4 in 1997 and had an undefeated 1998 season. The large majority of the starters on the 1998 squad were Teevens recruits.
Coincidentally, many members of that team will be in New Orleans this weekend for a 25-year reunion as Tulane plays host to Nicholls Saturday night.
“We were so close in ’96, and in ’97 we turned the corner,” said former Tulane quarterback Jeff Curtis. “The foundation for that ’98 season was set by the men that Coach Teevens recruited.
“He recruited really good people. He did a great job of meshing guys from New York and Chicago into a New Orleans culture. It worked.”
Added King, “I wish Buddy could have been a part of that ’98 season.”
A handful of players from the Teevens era, including Curtis, have gone on to become coaches themselves.
“He did more for me than anyone in the profession,” said Newman head coach Nelson Stewart, who walked on at Tulane prior to the 1995 season.
“As a player, I didn’t know where to go. I was a recruited walk-on. I drove to Tulane on a Sunday morning and he brought me in. He was the reason I went there. I only played two years for him, but he had so much dignity and grace.
“When I got into coaching, he was at Stanford. I wrote him a note and I got back a three-page, handwritten note. He said, ‘When you walk through the fire, you learn everything.’”
Curtis, now an assistant football and head baseball coach at his alma mater, John Curtis Christian, recalls the positive visualization Teevens would teach.
“He was a little ahead of his time,” Curtis said. “A lot of that stuff is commonplace now, but back then it wasn’t really talked about.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity he gave me to play college football.”
During his second stint at Dartmouth, Teevens worked to make the sport he loved safer by becoming the first coach to end full-contact practices and developing a virtual tackling dummy, the Mobile Virtual Player, in conjunction with Dartmouth’s school of engineering. The MVP has been used by other college and NFL teams.
“He went (back) to Dartmouth and changed football,” Stewart said. “He said something to me, ‘I love football, but I love my players a lot more.’”
In 2018, Teevens hired Callie Brownson, whom he met at the Manning Passing Academy, as the first full-time female assistant in Division I.
White added that Teevens had an “immeasurable impact” on the sport he coached.
Dartmouth officials said Tuesday the Big Green’s game with Lehigh Saturday will go on as scheduled, with a moment of silence prior to the game and a gathering of remembrance afterward.
Last week, all eight Ivy League schools announced they would wear “BT” decals on their helmets for the 2023 season.
“He was always my head coach,” Stewart said. “He’s the finest man I ever known, the guy who shaped me in this profession. There’s never going to be anyone else like him.”
Teevens is survived by his wife Kirsten, two children and four grandchildren.
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…