WMU Hall of Famer Bill Doolittle Passes Away
KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Western Michigan football coach (1964-1974) and WMU Athletic Hall of Famer, Francis William “Bill” Doolittle passed away on Thursday, April 10 due to a brief illness. He was 90 years old. Doolittle coached 11 seasons at WMU, compiling a 58-49-2 record and leading the Broncos to the 1966 Mid-American Conference title.
A native of Mansfield, Ohio, Doolittle was an All-State quarterback and guided his team to a state championship in 1941. He enrolled at The Ohio State University in 1942. After his freshman season, Doolittle left to join the Marine Corps and served 27 months in the South Pacific, earning the Bronze Star for his service in Guam. Doolittle returned to quarterback Ohio State from 1946-48.
Doolittle’s first coaching job was at Grandview High School (Columbus, Ohio) in 1949. In 1950, he moved to Brown University as backfield coach for two years. Following his tenure at Brown, Doolittle went back to the high school ranks with stints at Lincoln (Canton, Ohio), Owosso, Flint Central and his hometown of Mansfield (1951-1961), Doolittle served as the offensive backfield coach at the United States Military Academy for two seasons. He was hired as WMU’s head coach in 1964. Doolittle would lead the Broncos for 11 seasons, compiling a 58-49-2 record. In 1966, he won MAC coach of the Year honors, along with his team winning the first ever MAC title in school history. Doolittle produced seven winning seasons during his tenure, including four in a row from 1970-73. During his time roaming the sidelines at WMU, he was the most visible head coach in college football wearing his signature cowboy hat and bow tie.
After resigning as coach, he would be named the Director of the Mike Gary Athletic Fund in 1975. In his 15 years of service, the Gary Fund grew and became known as one of the best in the MAC. When first started the Gary Fund had annual contributions of $25,000, but during Doolittle’s time the fund had contributions of $455,000 a year and raised a total of $3,284,000.
Doolittle is a member of the Mansfield High School Athletic Hall of Fame. He was recognized as the Alumni “W” Club “Man of the Year” in 1988 for his efforts with the Mike Gary Athletic Fund. In 1996, Doolittle was inducted into the WMU Athletic Hall of Fame. He was also inducted in 2005, into the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame.
Doolittle was preceded in death by his wife Lenore and his son Stephen. He is survived by his daughter Karen, three grand children and two great grand children. A memorial service is pending.