The late Harold R. “Tubby” Raymond received a Delaware hero’s farewell Friday.
About 500 former University of Delaware athletes, fans and political dignitaries and fans gathered to share “Tubby stories’’ and pay tribute to the school’s legendary football coach during a memorial service at the Bob Carpenter Center.
The Carpenter Center is next door to Delaware Stadium, which Raymond put on the national gridiron map during a remarkable 36-year career as the Blue Hens’ coach.
Delaware won three national titles for smaller colleges under Raymond, using the innovative Wing-T offense the former mathematics major helped create. Coaches from all levels of football, including the pros, often called Raymond to pick his brain about the Wing-T, which relied on misdirection and absolute precision in execution.
Raymond, who was also an avid painter known for his acrylic portraits of Blue Hen seniors, died Dec. 8 at age 92.
“He is and always will be synonymous with Delaware football,’’ university President Dennis Assanis said.
Assanis also joked that when the Blue Hens were struggling a few years ago, he saw Raymond on the sidelines and told him he might bring him back to coach.
A 2003 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, Raymond won 300 games at Delaware, becoming the ninth coach in America to reach that milestone — and the fourth to accomplish that feat at one school. He now ranks 13th all-time in victories among college football coaches.
He took the head job at UD in 1966 after 12 years as an assistant to Dave Nelson. Under Raymond, the Blue Hens appeared in 16 NCAA playoffs and won national crowns in 1971, 1972 and 1979.
His teams captured 14 Lambert Cup trophies, nine Eastern College Athletic Conference Team of the Year awards, and nine conference titles. Raymond retired after the 2001 season, finishing with a 300-119-3 record.
Raymond also coached 15 National Football League draft picks, including four-time Pro Bowl quarterback and 2002 NFL Most Valuable Player Rich Gannon, a Philadelphia native who spoke Friday.
Gannon, who played 17 years in the NFL, credited Raymond for much of his success.
“I learned so much from him. It was an unbelievable opportunity to play for a legend,” Gannon said. “He was really terrific with team building. Leadership was important to him, handing over leadership to his players.”
Gannon said Raymond also stood out as an offensive mastermind.
“People don’t give him enough credit for being such a great play caller,” said Gannon, now an NFL football analyst for CBS. “He saw the game through the eyes of a quarterback. He was really good that way, so he really helped catapult me to a successful NFL career.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who played briefly for Raymond as a freshman in 1969, said that under Tubby, the school never had to worry about recruiting improprieties.
“The program was always,” Biden said, “about integrity.”
A native of Flint, Michigan, Raymond was called “Tubby’’ by his childhood buddies for his pudginess. He lost the weight but never shed the moniker.
He played football and baseball at the University of Michigan, where he captained the baseball team and graduated in 1950. After a brief stint as a minor league baseball player and high school coach, he coached at the University of Maine, then was hired by Delaware in 1954 as head baseball coach and football assistant.
He was Delaware’s baseball coach for nine years and had the school’s second-best record, 141-56.
After Raymond retired from coaching, he kept painting, continuing a tradition he started in the 1950s when he started doing portraits of senior football players. He continued that practice through this season. His works have been profiled on national television programs.