Ray Willsey
Willsey in 1965
Biographical details
Born(1928-09-30)September 30, 1928
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
DiedNovember 4, 2013(2013-11-04) (aged 85)
Hailey, Idaho, U.S.
Alma materCalifornia
Playing career
1953–1955Edmonton Eskimos
Position(s)Defensive back
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1956Washington Huskies (assistant)
1957–1959Texas (assistant)
1960–1961St. Louis Cardinals (DC/co-HC)
1963Washington Redskins (DC)
1973–1977St. Louis Cardinals (DC)
1978Oakland Raiders (DB)
1979–1987Oakland / Los Angeles Raiders (RB)
1988Los Angeles Cobras
1989Maryland Commandos
1991London Monarchs (defensive)
1992London Monarchs
Head coaching record
Overall40–42–1 (.488)(college)

Ray Willsey (September 30, 1928 – November 4, 2013) was an American gridiron football player and coach. He was the head football coach at the University of California, Berkeley from 1964 to 1971.[1] During his tenure he compiled a 40–42–1 record.[2] He was inducted into the Orange County Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.[3]

Early life and playing career

Willsey was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, and played defensive back and quarterback at Tustin High School and Santa Ana College. He played for the California Golden Bears, helping the Bears win 26–0 against Stanford in 1952. He graduated from the University of California in 1953 with a degree in business.[4] During 1953, Willsey toured Australia and New Zealand playing rugby league for the American All Stars. When the team landed in Australia, they did not know what the sport was. One week later, they played against the best players in the world in front of 65,453 people at the Sydney Cricket Ground.[5] He then played for three years for the Edmonton Eskimos in Canada, but his playing career was ended by an elbow injury.[3] He was a member of the Edmonton teams that won the 42nd Grey Cup and 43rd Grey Cup.

Coaching career

Willsey's first assistant coaching job was at the age of 28 with the Washington Huskies under head coach Darrell Royal. He followed Royal to the University of Texas in 1957.[3] His first NFL position was at defensive coordinator with the Saint Louis Cardinals in 1961,[3] where he went 2–0 as co-head coach. Willsey coached the California Golden Bears from 1964 to 1971. His 1968 team finished 7–3–1, recording three shutout victories and holding eight of 12 opponents to 12 points or less, earning its defensive unit the nickname "The Bear Minimum."[6] In 1971, Willsey resigned from Cal, and in 1973, he rejoined the Cardinals as defensive coordinator under head coach Don Coryell.[7] He moved to the Oakland Raiders in 1977 as backfield coach.[3] With the Raiders, Willsey was an assistant coach for Super Bowl-winning teams in 1980 (Super Bowl XV) and 1983 (Super Bowl XVIII), the latter of which Marcus Allen, whose position coach was Willsey, was named the MVP of Super Bowl XVIII. Allen mentioned Willsey as one of his favorite and most influential coaches during his Hall of Fame enshrinement speech.

In 1988, Willsey served as head coach of the Los Angeles Cobras during that team's only year of existence in the Arena Football League, in which his team compiled a 5–6–1 record.[3][8] He was defensive coach of the London Monarchs when they won the World League title in 1991,[3] and he became their head coach for the 1992 season.[9] He was defensive coordinator for the Scottish Claymores in the mid-90s,[10] and became director of personnel for NFL Europe in 1996.[11][12] He was awarded the Glenn T. Seaborg Award in 2002, an annual honor given by Cal's football alumni association to a former Cal football player for his career accomplishments.[4]


Willsey died on November 4, 2013, at the age of 85.[13]

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
California Golden Bears (Pacific-8 Conference) (1964–1971)
1964 California 3–7 0–4 8th
1965 California 5–5 2–3 T–5th
1966 California 3–7 2–3 5th
1967 California 5–5 2–3 6th
1968 California 7–3–1 2–2–1 T–3rd
1969 California 5–5 2–4 6th
1970 California 6–5 4–3 T–2nd
1971 California 6–5 4–3 T–3rd
California: 40–42–1 18–25–1
Total: 40–42–1


League Team Year Regular season Post season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
NFL STL 1961 2 0 0 1.000
AFL LA 1988 5 6 1 .458 4th Place 0 1 .000 Lost to Chicago Bruisers
WLAF LON 1992 2 7 1 .250 3rd (Europe)
Total 9 13 2 .417 0 1 .000
Total 9 13 2 .417 0 1 .000


  1. ^ Sargis, Joe (January 19, 1972). "After Eight Seasons .Ray Willsey Quits Cal; White Considers 2 Jobs ". Ellensburg Daily Record. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  2. ^ Boyles, Bob; Paul Guido (2008). "California". The USA Today College Football Encyclopedia: A Comprehensive Modern Reference to America's Most Colorful Sport, 1953-Present. Skyhorse Publishing Inc. ISBN 978-1-60239-331-8.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Weyler, John (December 4, 1993). "Willsey Traces His Roots of Success to Old Coach". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  4. ^ a b "Ray Willsey to Receive Glenn Seaborg Award". CalBears.com. September 27, 2002. Archived from the original on February 20, 2014. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  5. ^ "The Yanks are Coming. The 1953 American All Stars Tour of Australia". Pratten Park Magpies.
  6. ^ "Ray Willsey, Cal football coach in the 1960s, dies at 85". The Los Angeles Times. November 11, 2013.
  7. ^ "Ray Willsey Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  8. ^ White, Lonnie (March 17, 1988). "Ray Willsey Will Coach L.A.'s Cobras". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  9. ^ Newswire (January 10, 1992). "Names in the News". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  10. ^ Davidson, Mike (June 22, 1996). "Keller spreads gridiron gospel". Daily Herald. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  11. ^ "NFL Europa history". NFL. Archived from the original on July 19, 2009. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  12. ^ Bush, David (December 25, 2004). "'Bear Minimum' was one tough act". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  13. ^ Faraudo, Jeff (November 6, 2013). "Former Cal coach Willsey dies at 85". Retrieved November 6, 2013.