Billy Brewer, the former Ole Miss football star who went on to coach the Rebels to eight Egg Bowl victories over rival Mississippi State, died Saturday. He was 83.
Ole Miss released a statement confirming Brewer’s death in Memphis following a brief illness. Family friend Chuck Rounsaville said the former coach had been in poor health for a few months after suffering a stroke this year.
Brewer coached Ole Miss for 11 seasons from 1983 to 1993, finishing with a 67-56-3 record. He took the Rebels to five bowl games and had a 3-2 record in the postseason, winning the Liberty Bowl twice and the Independence Bowl once.
In his first season as head coach after succeeding Steve Sloan, Brewer led the team to its first bowl appearance since the John Vaught era. The Rebels won the first of the eight Egg Bowls to earn the bowl bid and a 6-5 season before defeating Air Force in the Independence Bowl.
“As a coach and player, Billy Brewer shared a love for Ole Miss that was unparalleled,” current Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke said in a statement. “He was greatly admired by his players and his teammates and will forever be engrained in the history of Rebel Football. Our prayers go out to the Brewer family and all of Rebel Nation during this time.”
Brewer also brought the tradition of walking the team through campus to the stadium. That tradition was formalized by the Champions Walk through The Grove in 1998.
Brewer’s tenure included plenty of big wins, but also trouble with the NCAA. The Rebels ran afoul of NCAA rules twice during his tenure and the second time cost him his job before the 1994 season.
Brewer’s 67 wins at Ole Miss are second in school history behind Johnny Vaught. He was inducted into the Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 and will be posthumously inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame this summer.
From Columbus, Mississippi, Brewer also was the head coach at Southeastern Louisiana and Louisiana Tech before coaching the Rebels. He played for the Rebels in the late 1950s and was named to the school’s Team of the Century as a defensive back in 1993.