Former Football Coach Al Reilly Passes

"He was the main reason for Knox’s Golden Era of football from 1970 to 1976.”

October 18, 2013

Al ReillyAlbert Reilly, one of the most successful head football coaches in Knox College history, died October 17.

Reilly served as an assistant coach from 1968 to 1970 before taking over as the head football coach in 1971, a position he held for six seasons. During Reilly's tenure, the team had an overall record of 29-23-2, had winning seasons in four of his six years at the helm, and achieved top division standing in the Midwest Conference five times.

Larry Kusch '71, a former player, recalls the turnaround of the football program under coach Reilly. "He was the defensive coach when I came to Knox in 1969 as a junior college transfer. In one year we went from 1-8 to 6-3 thanks largely to 'Alby's' commitment to excellence and his passion for innovative teaching techniques. He was the main reason for Knox's Golden Era of football from 1970 to 1976."

Reilly's best season was in 1976 when the team (Knox-Lombard Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2012) went 7-1-1 to win the Midwest Conference, shut out Lake Forest 33-0 in the playoffs, and finished with the best record among all football teams from Illinois colleges. The '76 team was also ranked #10 in the nation by United Press International and remains the last Knox football squad to win a conference championship.

"It was the best record in 49 years," former athletic director Harley Knosher said of the 1976 season, "It was a high mark for both the program and Knox."

Reilly received his bachelor's degree in economics and master's degree in English literature from Middlebury College. He was offensive backfield coach at Dartmouth College before assuming the same position at Knox in 1968. In addition to his duties as football coach, he served as women's basketball coach, assistant track coach, and was an assistant professor of physical education at Knox. Reilly was inducted into the Knox-Lombard Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.

In 1977, Reilly left coaching to purchase a regional greenhouse manufacurer that he helped grow into an international operation with manufacuring facilities in Shanghai, Ohio, and North Carolina.

Albert Reilly is survived by his wife, Pamela, two children, and two grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be sent to Ronald McDonald House, 350 Erkenbrecher Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45229.

Al Reilly at Knox College