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Samuel Ray Graves (December 31, 1918 – April 10, 2015) was an American college and professional football player and college football coach. He was a native of Tennessee and a graduate of the University of Tennessee, where he played college football. Graves was best known as the head coach of the Florida Gators football team. Graves also served for 20 years as the athletic director of the university.

Ray Graves
Ray Graves (1965 Seminole).png
Graves in 1965 Seminole yearbook
Biographical details
Born(1918-12-31)December 31, 1918
Knoxville, Tennessee
DiedApril 10, 2015(2015-04-10) (aged 96)
Clearwater, Florida
Playing career
1942Philadelphia Eagles
1943Phil./Pitt. Steagles
1946Philadelphia Eagles
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1944–1945Tennessee (line)
1951–1959Georgia Tech (assistant)
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
Head coaching record
Accomplishments and honors
SEC Coach of the Year (1960)
University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame
Florida–Georgia Hall of Fame
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1990 (profile)

Early life and educationEdit

Graves was born in Knoxville, Tennessee on December 31, 1918.[1] He was the son of a Methodist minister, and he realized that his best (and perhaps only) opportunity to attend college would be to earn an athletic scholarship.[1] Tennessee Wesleyan College, a small Methodist-affiliated college located in Athens, Tennessee, recognized his athletic talent and offered him a full scholarship.[1] Coach Robert Neyland of the University of Tennessee recognized his standout play and arranged for Graves to transfer to Tennessee.[1] After he graduated from Tennessee in 1942, he attempted to volunteer for the U.S. Navy following the United States' entry into World War II, but he was rejected when he failed his physical because he was deaf in one ear.[2] He would have been accepted only in a grave emergency.[3]

Graves married Opal Richardson on November 3, 1942, and they had three daughters together.[4]

Playing careerEdit


Graves played college football for one year at Tennessee Wesleyan College,[1] then two years at the University of Tennessee, where he was the team captain during his senior year in 1941.[5] He replaced Norbert Ackerman as the starting center in 1941.[6] During his time as a Volunteer, he played in the Sugar Bowl following his junior season, and he earned third-team All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) honors following his senior season.[7] The All-SEC Bob Gude played across from Graves at rival Vanderbilt.


The Philadelphia Eagles selected Graves in the ninth round (seventy-third pick overall) in the 1942 NFL Draft,[8] and he played for the Eagles for three seasons, including the temporary 1943 merger of the Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers known as the "Steagles."[5][9] The Steagles were formed when the National Football League had to limit rosters and cut back to eight teams because of manpower shortages during World War II.[5] In three NFL seasons, Graves played in 28 games, starting in 15 of them.[9]

Coaching careerEdit

Graves was retained as a volunteer coach at the University of Tennessee in 1943,[10] but Tennessee did not field a football team that season due to World War II. Graves was hired as an assistant coach for the Volunteers in 1944,[11][12] and resigned as the offensive line coach following the 1945 season to play for the Eagles again.[13] Following his playing career, Graves was the defensive coach at Georgia Tech under head coach Bobby Dodd.[14] Under Dodd, Graves and offensive coach Frank Broyles, the Yellow Jackets won Southeastern Conference championships in 1951 and 1952, the 1951 Orange Bowl, the 1952 Sugar Bowl and the 1952 national championship.[15] Graves is widely credited with creating what was then known as the "monster defense"—the modern alignment of the free safety and strong safety in the defensive backfield.[16]

Spurrier and Graves.

In 1960 Graves was hired as head football coach of the University of Florida, replacing fellow Tennessee alumnus Bob Woodruff. He served as the Gators' head coach for ten years from 1960 to 1969. Graves led Florida to five bowl appearances and he coached several outstanding players, including quarterback and Heisman Trophy recipient Steve Spurrier (1964–1966), running back and future NFL first-round draft pick Larry Smith (1966–1968)[17] and defensive end and NFL Hall of Fame inductee Jack Youngblood (1968–1970).

Graves carried off the field following 1967 Orange Bowl

Among the many highlights of the Graves era was the 1963 Gators' 10–6 upset victory over coach Bear Bryant's 1963 Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.[18] In one of the more interesting footnotes to his football legacy, Graves allowed Dr. Robert Cade, a professor in the University of Florida College of Medicine, to conduct dehydration analysis and rehydration experiments using team members which led to the formulation of Gatorade in 1965.[19] After seeing the formula's potential in an intrasquad scrimmage, Graves asked Cade to make enough for the entire team for the next game against Louisiana State; the LSU Tigers wilted in the 102-degree game-day heat, and the Gators came from behind to win in the second half.[19] He told his friend, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Hank Stram, of the drink's effectiveness, a move that eventually led to Gatorade becoming the official sports drink of the NFL.

Graves' saved the best for last. His 1969 Gators posted a 9–1–1 record, upset the Tennessee Volunteers, 14–13, in the Gator Bowl,[20] and were ranked fourteenth in the final AP Poll.[21] After achieving an all-time win-loss record at Florida of 70–31–4 (.686)[22][23] and four final top-twenty poll rankings (1960, 1965, 1966, 1969), Graves stepped down to make room for former Gators quarterback Doug Dickey to return to his alma mater as the new head coach of the 1970 Gators.[24] Graves remained the winningest coach in Gators football history until his former quarterback, Steve Spurrier, surpassed him in 1996.[25][26]

Ray Graves and J. Wayne Reitz.

Graves' Gators are remembered for their remarkable academic success as much as their athletic success. Ninety-three percent of his players graduated, and more than half of the graduates ultimately earned law or medical degrees.[24] Graves' Silver Sixties Gators remain a close-knit group, and they held an annual reunion with their coach every year from 1970 to 2014.[24]

After resigning as Florida's head football coach, Graves remained the university's athletic director until 1979, a position he had also held since becoming the football coach in 1960.[27] His remaining tenure as athletic director was notable for the University of Florida embracing the challenges and opportunities in women's college sports presented by Title IX.[28] After he was approached by Professor Dr. Ruth H. Alexander and other female coaches to fund women's athletics, their proposal was brought to the Faculty Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics who approved their budgeting plan for the 1972–73 season.[29] Under Graves' guidance, Florida's women's sports program began its climb to become one of the top ten women's programs in Division I sports. After he retired as athletic director in 1979, he worked for another year as a special assistant for fundraising in the office of the university president.[27]

Graves was inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame in 1972,[30] the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame in 1981,[31][32] the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1990,[33] and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1990.[34] When Steve Spurrier returned to Gainesville as the Gators' head coach in 1990, he created the team's new most valuable player award, the Ray Graves Trophy, with the annual recipients selected by the players.[26][27] The Athletic Office at the University of Florida's Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was named in honor of Graves during the 2005 season.

Steagles 60th anniversaryEdit

On August 17, 2003, the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the Steagles in pregame and halftime ceremonies for the 2003 season opener at Heinz Field. The Steelers recreated the era in their "Turn Back the Clock" ceremonies, including broadcasting in black and white on the Jumbotron and airing World War II footage during the national anthem. All live entertainment was done to reflect the 1940s.

Graves was on hand as six of the nine surviving members of that Steagles team were honored by the Steelers during halftime.[35] During the festivities, the Steelers gave each of the six members a replica Steagles jersey. The jersey worn by Graves was returned to the team after the festivities. It was sold by the Steelers a month later to Bill Ponko, a private collector of sports memorabilia, to benefit a local charity.

Later lifeEdit

After resigning as the University of Florida's athletic director in 1980, Graves became vice president of Steinbrenner Enterprises in Tampa, Florida.[36] He also served as a consultant to the Jacksonville Bulls of the United States Football League (USFL).[26] Graves retired in 1989, and he continued to live in Tampa with his wife Opal.[4] He died in nearby Clearwater on April 10, 2015. He was 96 years old.[37][38]

Head coaching recordEdit

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Florida Gators (Southeastern Conference) (1960–1969)
1960 Florida 9–2 5–1 2nd W Gator 16 18
1961 Florida 4–5–1 3–3 6th
1962 Florida 7–4 4–2 5th W Gator
1963 Florida 6–3–1 3–3–1 7th
1964 Florida 7–3 4–2 T–2nd
1965 Florida 7–4 4–2 3rd L Sugar 12
1966 Florida 9–2 5–1 3rd W Orange 11
1967 Florida 6–4 4–2 T–3rd
1968 Florida 6–3–1 3–2–1 T–6th
1969 Florida 9–1–1 3–1–1 4th W Gator 17 14
Florida: 70–31–4 38–19–3[23]
Total: 70–31–4[22]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e Julian M. Pleasants, Gator Tales: An Oral History of the University of Florida, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, p. 189 (2006).
  2. ^ Pleasants, Gator Tales, p. 193.
  3. ^ Harry Grayson, "The Scoreboard'" Lawrence Daily Journal-World, p. 6 (December 29, 1941). Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Scott Carter, "Former Gators Football Coach, Athletic Director Ray Graves Dies at Age 96," (April 10, 2015). Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Elizabeth McGarr, "A Team of Two Cities Archived 2012-10-25 at the Wayback Machine," Sports Illustrated (August 23, 2007). Retrieved September 16, 2009.
  6. ^ Bob Suffridge, "Alabama Best, Bob Suffridge Says in Article," The Florence Times, p. 7 (September 17, 1941). Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  7. ^ Associated Press, "The 1941 All-Southeastern," The Evening Independent, p. 11 (December 1, 1941). Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  8. ^ Pro Football Hall of Fame, Draft History, 1942 National Football League Draft. Retrieved May 6, 2011.
  9. ^ a b, Players, Ray Graves. Retrieved May 6, 2011.
  10. ^ Associated Press, "Vol Player Added To Coaching Staff," Daytona Beach Morning Journal, p. 4 (January 15, 1943). Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  11. ^ "New Tennessee Coach," Reading Eagle, p. 12 (December 28, 1943). Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  12. ^ United Press, "Ray Graves to Rejoin Eagles for Sunday Tilt," Youngstown Vindicator, p. 9 (November 22, 1944). Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  13. ^ "Branch Rickey's Son Injured in Crash," The Milwaukee Journal, p. 5 (January 30, 1946). Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  14. ^ Associated Press, "Graves Named Line Coach," The New York Times, p. S28 (April 15, 1947). Retrieved June 26, 2010.
  15. ^ College Football Data Warehouse, Georgia Tech Yearly Results: 1950–1954 Archived October 22, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved September 16, 2009.
  16. ^ Bud Crussell, "Graves' Record Among The Best," Ocala Star-Banner, p. 7B (August 20, 1987). Retrieved July 23, 2011.
  17. ^ "A Smith to Remember Archived 2012-10-25 at the Wayback Machine," Sports Illustrated (September 19, 1966). Retrieved September 16, 2009.
  18. ^ Alabama did not lose again in Tuscaloosa until 1982.
  19. ^ a b Norm Carlson, University of Florida Football Vault: The History of the Florida Gators, Whitman Publishing, LLC, Atlanta, Georgia, p. 78 (2007).
  20. ^ College Football Data Warehouse, All-Time Coaching Records, Ray Graves: 1969. Retrieved March 4, 2010.
  21. ^ AP Poll Archive, Final 1969 AP Football Poll Archived December 3, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved March 4, 2010.
  22. ^ a b College Football Data Warehouse, All-Time Coaching Records, Ray Graves Records by Year. Retrieved September 6, 2009.
  23. ^ a b 2012 Florida Football Media Guide Archived May 27, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida, pp. 110, 115, 116 (2012). Retrieved September 16, 2012.
  24. ^ a b c Carlson, University of Florida Football Vault, p. 84.
  25. ^ Associated Press, "Spurrier out at Florida Archived 2007-08-25 at the Wayback Machine," Sports Illustrated (January 9, 2002). Retrieved September 6, 2009.
  26. ^ a b c "Former Florida football coach and athletic director Ray Graves dies at 96," The Florida Times-Union (April 10, 2015). Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  27. ^ a b c Jack Hairston, Tales from the Gator Swamp, Sports Publishing, LLC, Champaign, Illinois, pp. 155–159 (2002).
  28. ^ Bil Gilbert & Nancy Williamson, "Women In Sport: A Progress Report Archived October 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Sports Illustrated (July 29, 1974). Retrieved September 16, 2009.
  29. ^ Harry, Chris (June 22, 2012). "Title IX at 40: the Road to Championships Has Been Paved with Adversity". Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  30. ^ Florida Sports Hall of Fame, Inductees, Ray Graves (1972) Archived March 28, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved July 23, 2011.
  31. ^ F Club, Hall of Fame, Honorary Letter Winners. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  32. ^ Vince Murray, "Seminoles' Wright Named All-American," Ocala Star-Banner, p. 4B (March 31, 1981). Retrieved July 23, 2011.
  33. ^ Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, Inductees Archived July 24, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved July 23, 2011.
  34. ^ "Ray Graves enters College Hall of Fame," Gainesville Sun, p. 1C (December 5, 1990). Retrieved September 6, 2009.
  35. ^ Gerry Dulac, "Steelers Notebook: Simmons will play vs. Eagles," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (August 15, 2003). Retrieved September 6, 2009.
  36. ^ "Ray Graves". College Football Hall of Fame. Football Foundation. Retrieved September 1, 2011.
  37. ^ Joey Johnston, "Former Florida Gators coach Ray Graves dies at age 96," Tampa Tribune (April 10, 2015). Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  38. ^ Edgar Thompson, "Former Gators coach Ray Graves dead at age 96," Orlando Sentinel (April 10, 2015). Retrieved April 10, 2015.


  • 2012 Florida Football Media Guide, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida (2012).
  • Carlson, Norm, University of Florida Football Vault: The History of the Florida Gators, Whitman Publishing, LLC, Atlanta, Georgia (2007). ISBN 0-7948-2298-3.
  • Golenbock, Peter, Go Gators! An Oral History of Florida's Pursuit of Gridiron Glory, Legends Publishing, LLC, St. Petersburg, Florida (2002). ISBN 0-9650782-1-3.
  • Graves, Samuel Ray, Ray Graves' Guide to Modern Football Defense, Parker Publishing Co., West Nyack, New York (1966).
  • Graves, Samuel Ray, Ray Graves' Guide to Modern Football Offense, Parker Publishing Co., West Nyack, New York (1967).
  • Hairston, Jack, Tales from the Gator Swamp: A Collection of the Greatest Gator Stories Ever Told, Sports Publishing, LLC, Champaign, Illinois (2002). ISBN 1-58261-514-4.
  • McCarthy, Kevin M., Fightin' Gators: A History of University of Florida Football, Arcadia Publishing, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina (2000). ISBN 978-0-7385-0559-6.
  • McEwen, Tom, The Gators: A Story of Florida Football, The Strode Publishers, Huntsville, Alabama (1974). ISBN 0-87397-025-X.
  • Nash, Noel, ed., The Gainesville Sun Presents The Greatest Moments in Florida Gators Football, Sports Publishing, Inc., Champaign, Illinois (1998). ISBN 1-57167-196-X.
  • Pleasants, Julian M., Gator Tales: An Oral History of the University of Florida, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (2006). ISBN 0-8130-3054-4.
  • Proctor, Samuel, & Wright Langley, Gator History: A Pictorial History of the University of Florida, South Star Publishing Company, Gainesville, Florida (1986). ISBN 0-938637-00-2.
  • Van Ness, Carl, & Kevin McCarthy, Honoring the Past, Shaping the Future: The University of Florida, 1853–2003, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (2003).

External linksEdit