Former Football Coach Art Guepe Dies
Nov. 7, 2001
Charlottesville, Va. – Former Virginia football coach Art Guepe died Saturday (Nov. 3) in a Florida nursing home. He was 86.
Guepe took Virginia football to unprecedented heights during his tenure in Charlottesville from 1946-52 and never had a losing season. He guided the Cavaliers to a 47-17-2 record and was the winningest coach in school history until he was passed by George Welsh some 40 years later. His .727 winning percentage remains the highest in school history for any individual who coached the team more than two seasons.
A 1937 graduate of Marquette, Guepe was a star quarterback for head coach Frank Murray who left the Wisconsin school to become Virginia’s head coach in 1937. Guepe coached the Marquette freshman squad folllowing graduation before reuniting with Murray as UVa’s chief assistant and backfield coach from 1938-42. Following a tour of naval duty during World War II he returned to UVa as Murray’s successor in 1946.
While in the service he was taught the principles of the split-T formation by long-time Missouri coach Don Faurot.
Utilizing the nascent offensive scheme, Guepe led his first Virginia squad to a 4-4-1 record and quickly turned the Cavaliers into one of the nation’s most formidable teams. That team opened with a 71-0 win over Hampden-Sydney to begin a run of success that would stand unmatched until Welsh rebuilt the Virginia program in the 1980s.
Guepe’s 1947 team won its first six games and became the first team in school history ranked in the Associated Press’ top-10. The Cavaliers captured national attention two years later with a stunning 26-14 win over nationally-ranked Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The win catapulted the Cavaliers to #9 in the AP poll.
From 1949-52 Virginia compiled a 31-7 record and featured some of the top players in school history, including defensive guard Joe Palumbo, fullback John Papit and end Tom Scott.
“The players really respected him because he knew so much,” said Scott. “He was a real innovator and motivator and was very precise. He always tried to be exact and taught his players that.”
Guepe left UVa following the 1952 season to become head coach (and later athletic director) at Vanderbilt. He coached the Commodores for 10 seasons, leading them to a 39-54-7 record. His 1955 team defeated Auburn 25-13 in the Gator Bowl in the first bowl game in school history.
After leaving Vanderbilt, Guepe served as commissioner of the Ohio Valley Conference from 1963-72.
Guepe is survived by his wife of 63 years, Viola, three children, eight grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
He was buried Tuesday (Nov. 6) in Nashville, Tenn.