Photo by Michael Morgan

The scoreboard on the construction site of the future Eddie Joseph Memorial Stadium is relocated to a different area earlier this month. The entire area has been reconstructed from the ground up now that Wharton ISD Board of Trustees has moved forward with architectural plans.

With the unanimous vote by the Board of Trustees with the Wharton Independent School District, the site where football games and graduations, among other events, were once held will be known as Eddie Joseph Memorial Stadium. Trustees made new history in making this decision. The first athletes who will be using the new stadium are the football players. They too will make history in a few weeks.

A look back at Tiger football since the first team was fielded in 1909 until the end of the 2018 season shows why Joseph was the choice. With the exception of the years 1915 through 1918 and 1920, Wharton High School has had a team competing on the gridiron. Though no reason was given, seasons being canceled in those years usually related to two events sweeping the nation if not the world; The Great War, which eventually became known as World War 1 and the flu epidemic. 

In the 105-year history of being Wharton Tigers teams, they have won 472 games, lost 474 games and tied 29 times. They are a little under .500 for a winning percentage going into the 2019 season. They have been in the playoffs 21 times. There are 28 coaches listed as having led the Tigers to that record. Six of the 28 stand out for their coaching at Wharton and also at other schools in their careers.

The first coach making his mark was Chena Gilstrap, who coached during the World War II years from 1943 through 1946. He won 29 games. Picking right up with the 1947 season was Hansel Mangum. He coached for four years and got the Tigers their only state championship to date. That was in his final year in 1950 when Wharton won the Class 1A state title. In his four seasons, Mangum won 35 games.

The next coach who won numerous times is Jesse Crow, who won 41 games in nine seasons between 1987 and 1995. The next coach also had a nine season stretch for the Tigers, Russell Roberts, winning 39 games from 1998 through 2006. Recently, there was Tim Finn winning 40 games in five seasons spanning 2012 through 2016.

Standing in a class by himself is Joseph. He had the longest tenure of any Tigers football coach and won the most games by a wide margin. He reigned in Wharton from 1967 through 1981. When he left, the Tigers had accumulated 92 wins under his guidance. That amounts to 19.5 percent of the total 472 wins to date.

After Wharton, Joseph played a key role in the development and growth of the Texas High School Coaches Association (THSCA), the largest organization of its type in the world. His leadership as an executive director of THSCA has been respected by coaches all over Texas who voiced their thoughts in public statements when he passed away March 31.

It didn’t take his good works long to get him the recognition by his peers in honors which have continued up to the action by the Wharton ISD Board of Trustees. In 1983, he was inducted into the THSCA Hall of Honor, the same honor coming to his son Gary Joseph of Katy High School on July 20. In 1994, he was elected to the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame located in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in Waco. Two years ago, the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame renamed their award category for outstanding Texas high school football coaches to the Coach Eddie Joseph Award. It now is awarded to two Texas coaches a year. Jay Black, the vice president of operations for the Texas Sports Hall of Fame commented about Eddie Joseph, “He was a gentleman of the first order, one of the most respected men ever to wear a whistle on the field. If anything, he did more for the coaching profession after he stepped down from coaching on the field.”

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