BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jimmy Feix, the winningest football coach in the history of WKU football, passed away Sunday afternoon. He was 83.
Feix served his alma mater as an All-America athlete, assistant football coach, head football coach, assistant director of alumni affairs, director of alumni affairs and director of athletics almost continuously from his arrival on campus as a freshman athlete in 1949 until his retirement in 1990.
“Coach Feix was a legendary figure in so many ways, and his influence transcended far beyond his role as WKU's head football coach and athletics director,” Director of Athletics Todd Stewart said. “His 106 wins are the most in our football program's history, but no number can accurately measure the tremendous impact he had on everyone he touched. It is not often that one individual can have such a positive effect on so many, but Coach Feix certainly did and the Hilltopper Nation is forever grateful. A hand written note from him that I received during my first year as athletics director is something I will always cherish. His thoughtful guidance and input were so meaningful, and it was an honor to have known him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Frankie, sons Jimmy and Jeff, and the entire Feix family.”
He spent 27 years as a member of the coaching staff on The Hill, the last 16 of those (1968-83) as head football coach.
Feix guided his teams to an impressive 106-56-6 (64.9%) record. His 14 teams that competed in the Ohio Valley Conference went 67-28-2 (70.1%) in league play, winning or sharing the OVC championship on six occasions — 1970, ‘71, ‘73, ‘75, ‘78 and ‘80. His 1973 team was undefeated in the regular season and rolled all the way to the championship game of the first-year NCAA Division II championship playoffs, finishing the year 12-1-0. The Hilltoppers made the playoff field again in 1975 and advanced to the title game for the second time, but once again had to settle for runner-up honors with their 11-2-0 record.
Feix was named Kodak College Coach-of-the-Year for Division IV in 1973 and ‘75. And, he was named OVC Coach-of-the-Year three times — 1973, ‘78 and ‘80. In his 16 seasons at the Topper helm, he coached 16 athletes who followed him on the list of WKU football All-Americans.
As a senior quarterback for the Toppers in 1952, Feix led his team to a 9-1-0 mark, the OVC title and a win in the school's first bowl appearance (34-19 over Arkansas State in the Refrigerator Bowl in Evansville, Ind.). That year he also became the first WKU football athlete ever to earn All-America honors after posting the highest pass completion percentage among all the nation's quarterbacks (61.2%). His 1,925 yards passing and 20 touchdowns in the air were the second highest numbers in the country and his 213.9 passing yards per game ranked third in that category.
Feix signed with the New York Giants of the National Football League in 1953 and was touted as the backup for QB Charlie Conerly, but a pre-season injury quickly ended his professional career. He then entered the U.S. Air Force. Feix returned to The Hill as a graduate assistant coach in 1957 and then joined Coach Nick Denes' staff on a full-time basis the following year.
Following his retirement from the coaching ranks in 1983, Feix spent two years in the WKU Office of Alumni Affairs, the second as director of that office.
He returned to athletics in 1986 to succeed the retiring John Oldham as director of athletics. In his first year in that position, he saw Hilltopper athletics lay claim to the university's first Sun Belt Conference Commissioners Cup (now known as the Vic Bubas Cup), symbolic of overall excellence in league sports. During his tenure, WKU student athletes consistently led the Sun Belt in academic performance, leading the league in qualifiers for the SBC Academic Honor Roll.
The playing field at Houchens Industries - L.T. Smith Stadium, where his 16 teams played all of their home games, was named “Jimmy Feix Field” in his honor in 1991. In addition, he and another former Topper quarterback and head coach, Willie Taggart, were the first football athletes to have their jerseys retired in ceremonies on Feix Field in 1999.
Feix was a member of the 10-person inaugural class of the WKU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991. He is also an honored member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Hall of Champions (2007), the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame (2004), WKU's Hall of Distinguished Alumni (2003) and the Henderson County Sports Hall of Fame (1988).
A native of Henderson, Ky., Feix was born on August 1, 1931. He attended Barret Manual Training School in Henderson before bringing his talents to WKU.
Feix is survived by his wife, the former Frankie Biggers and two sons, Dr. Jimmy B. Feix of Milwaukee, Wis., and Dr. Jeff Feix of Nashville, Tenn., as well as multiple grandchildren. Arrangements for a service to honor the life of James Wyne “Jimmy” Feix are expected to be finalized on Monday.