Former Cotton Bowl MVP Coates dies at 89

Herb Vincent
The 1947 Cotton Bowl MVP Ray Coates. Photo courtesy of

Ray Coates, a former three-sport standout at LSU and the most valuable player of the 1947 Cotton Bowl, died last week at the age of 89.

Coates was a graduate of Jesuit High School in New Orleans and LSU. A four-sport letterman at Jesuit, he was the tailback on the 1941 and 1943 state championship Blue Jay football teams, was captain of the 1943 team and the MVP of the 1943 All-State football team.

While at LSU, he lettered four years in football and baseball and one year in track. He was MVP of the 1947 Cotton Bowl and a member of LSU's 1946 SEC championship baseball team. He held the LSU record for longest punt for more than five decades, a 76-yarder against Rice in 1944.

Coates was selected in the seventh round of the 1948 NFL draft by the New York Giants and went on to play two seasons in New York, calling plays for NFL legend and former Tiger great Y.A. Tittle. Coates then began a coaching and teaching career. He was the head football coach at Catholic High School in Baton Rouge from 1953 to 1958, returned to his alma mater Jesuit High School in 1959 as an assistant coach and math teacher and later became head coach from 1966 to 1970, winning the District V-AAA title in 1970.

He continued teaching at Jesuit until his retirement in 1988. He was later inducted into the Louisiana High School Hall of Fame and the Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame.

Throughout his life, he enjoyed gardening, bike riding, traveling, fishing, attending Jesuit class reunions and watching sports of any kind, especially football. His students will fondly remember him for his passion for teaching and his familiar phrases such as, "it's like shooting fish in a barrel". His family and friends will remember him for his devotion to family and compassion for anyone in need.