Billy “Bill” Dale Bowman—Wood River High School’s first and most successful head football coach—passed away on Nov. 18 after battling cancer.
Bowman was 82.
Born on Oct. 26, 1938, in Rupert, Bowman eventually landed in Hailey in 1965 and became the head coach of a new high school named Wood River.
Bowman was also a basketball coach, but became recognized mostly for leading the Wolverines to a 26-1 record from 1966-1968.
He led WRHS to 23 straight wins during that time span before losing at Buhl, 18-12, in 1968.
In 1966, the Wolverines finished 9-0 by scoring 259 points (28.8 points per game) and allowed 38 points all season (4.2 points allowed per game).
In 1967, WRHS also went 9-0 and scored 162 points (18.0 ppg) and allowed 81 points (8.7 ppg).
Despite losing to Buhl, the 1968 team had the most impressive numbers. That team finished with an 8-1 record and scored 243 points all year (27.0 ppg) and allowed only 24 points all year (2.3).
The 1968 Wolverine defense was so dominant, WRHS had six shutouts for the season.
In those three seasons under Bowman, the Wolverines scored 664 points (24.6 ppg) and allowed only 143 points (5.3 ppg).
The 1968 season was Bowman’s last on record. He then became assistant principal at WRHS.
During Bowman’s tenure, Wood River rode a home winning streak of 14 straight on Hailey’s turf.
In 1969 that streak eventually snapped at 15 games when the Wolverines lost to Buhl at home on Oct. 10.
The shadow that Bowman cast over WRHS football has been as big as his heart.
No other Wolverine football team has since matched Bowman’s success. In 1969, the Wolverines finished the year 3-6, and the Wolverines didn’t have a winning season again until 1972 when they went 5-4.
Wood River did ultimately get back to an 8-2 record in 1975; however, they failed to field a team the following year in 1976.
Wood River would not win eight games in a season again until 2016.
To date, Bowman is the only coach to have won nine games in a season.
Bowman attended Utah State University where he played football for the Aggies. While at Utah State, Bowman married his high school sweetheart, Josephine Merrill. Together they raised two daughters, Susan and Teresa.
Bowman took a year of absence to attend the College of Idaho where he earned his Master’s Degree in Educational Administration. He also coached football while attending the College of Idaho.
After his days at Wood River, Bowman moved back to Rupert where he served as Principal at West Minico Junior High School and Minico High School.
He is survived by his daughters Susan (Steve) Higley of Boise, Teresa Jones of Twin Falls, Janalee Bowman of Pocatello, four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, nephew Tim Bowman and nieces Trina Bowman (Arrant), Sheila Merrill (Bauck) and Shanna Merrill (Conner).
Bowman’s celebration of life will take place at 11 a.m. this Saturday, Dec. 5.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, friends and family may attend via webcast at https://client.tribucast.com/tcid/387302623.
In lieu of flowers, you can make a donation in Bowman’s memory to www.Idaho2fly.org.