Former Louisiana Tech Bulldogs head coach Maxie Lambright has been nominated for the College Football Hall of Fame. The former Mississippi Southern Southerner makes the list of “Divisional Coach Candidates” for 2018. Two other La Tech coaches are already in the HoF, including Lambright’s predecessor Joe Aillet. Aillet is the only Tech coach to win more games with the Bulldogs than Lambright, and is the namesake of Tech’s stadium.
The requirements for a coach to be eligible call for him to have coached at least 10 years and 100 games with at least a .600 winning percentage. Lambright coached Tech for 12 seasons, and his 95-36-2 record at Tech is good for .722. Lambright coached legendary Bulldog quarterback Terry Bradshaw and led Tech to two (or three if you count 1974, see below) straight national titles.
After playing in Hattiesburg from 1946-48, he coached high school ball at Winona SS (MS) in 1955 and Bolton (LA) from 1956-1958. He then returned to USM as an assistant from 1959-1966 before taking over the Bulldogs from 1967-1978. In addition to coaching, he also served as Tech’s athletic director from 1970 until his retirement in 1978.
It should be noted that Maxie Lambright, who found himself on both sides of the rivalry, is credited with giving the Rivalry in Dixie its name. After leading the Dawgs to a 23-22 win over Southern Miss in 1976, he famously called it the “finest rivalry in Dixie.” His association with both schools only further connects the two rivals, who, through the wonders of conference realignment, now find themselves in the same conference again for the first time since 1951.
After a 3-7 first season, Lambright got Tech to two Grantland Rice Bowls in the late 60s, defeating Akron in 1968 but falling to East Tennessee State the next year. 1970 was a rebuild post-Bradshaw, but then the golden age of Lambright’s tenure got underway. 1971 was a warm-up with a 9-2 season capped off by defeating Eastern Michigan in the Pioneer Bowl. Then in 1972, La Tech would go a perfect 12-0, defeating Tennessee Tech in the Grantland Rice Bowl to lay claim to the last-ever College Division National Title.
The following year, the NCAA reorganized into the three division layout we see today. La Tech would overcome a season opening loss to Eastern Michigan and win-out the rest of the season. In the inaugural Division II playoffs, the Dawgs knocked off Western Illinois at home, Boise State in the Pioneer Bowl, and WKU in the Camellia Bowl in Sacramento to win the first ever DII National Title. They would fall to Central Michigan in the Pioneer Bowl the following year, but the UPI poll named them national champs, anyway. That title is the questionable one since they didn’t technically win the national championship game.
In 1975, Lambright would lead Tech into Division I. In 1977, he led the Dawgs to their first DI bowl game, a victory over Louisville in the Independence Bowl. He would take Tech to the I-Bowl again the next year. The loss to East Carolina would be his last game before retirement. He would pass away just over a year later in January 1980.
In addition to two (or three) national titles at the college division/division II level, Lambright led Tech to seven conference titles (one Gulf States title and six Southland titles, two of which were DI-A). He also posted an 8-2 record in lower division postseason games, and a 1-1 DI-A bowl record. It should also be noted that he posted a 5-4 record against his alma mater, Southern Miss.
Although Lambright didn’t win as many games as Joe Aillet (who coached Tech for more than twice as long as Lambright), he definitely won some meaningful ones. He brought Tech its only football national titles and seven of its 25 conference titles. He led the Dawgs into Division I and brought them their first two D-IA bowl appearances, as well as their first bowl victory. Lambright is already heralded by Bulldog fans as a legend, and being added to the College Football Hall of Fame would further cement that. He certainly deserves it.