JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
HORSESHOE BAY — Former Texas Tech University football coach William Taylor “Spike” Dykes made his name coaching on the gridiron in the state of Texas.
But to thousands of children in the Highland Lakes, Dykes, who died at age 79 on April 10 from an apparent heart attack, was much more. He, along with former coach Emory Bellard, used their hearts to help young people by starting the Emory Bellard-Spike Dykes Seton Kids Care-A-Van Tailgate Party and Golf Tournament. The mobile Care-A-Van provides medical care for uninsured and underinsured children in the Highland Lakes.
Becky Fox, director of development for Seton Highlands Lakes Hospital, and Dykes talked in February regarding this year’s tailgate party and golf tournament. The event is in its 14th year. Even at 79, Dykes was still looking forward to it.
But then, she got a call April 10 about the passing of her wonderful friend.
“I’m still in shock,” she said. “It’s been the greatest joy to have been a part of Spike’s world. What a true gentleman and motivator to all. He inspired us for his love for young adults and kids.”
Bellard, a former Texas A&M University football coach, began the tailgate party and golf tournament after someone challenged him to see the Care-A-Van put in action more than 14 years ago. He often told the story about how he drove to the mobile healthcare facility and counted the number of kids who benefited from it.
Simply, Bellard was floored at the number of children he saw there.
So he contacted Dykes, who served as the Texas Tech University head football coach from 1986-99. Dykes lived in Horseshoe Bay; Bellard lived in Meadowlakes at the time. The two partnered up to raise money to make sure those children got the healthcare they needed.
After conversations with other Seton officials, they came up with the tailgate party and golf tournament. The two often called upon their coaching friends to attend the tailgate party and play golf in the tournament. Over the years, those coaches included Darrell K. Royal and Jody Conradt of the University of Texas; R.C. Slocum and Jackie Sherrill of Texas A&M University; athletics directors Chris Plonsky and Deloss Dodds of the University of Texas; and Rudy Davalos of the University of New Mexico and the University of Houston. The event also attracted numerous former college and university athletes.
The tournament was so big it often required morning and afternoon flights.
Bellard passed away in 2011, but Dykes continued promoting and hosting the event.
The event raised $2.4 million in 13 years.
“All of us who got to work with all of them, that was the greatest gift that could have been given to all of us,” Fox said.
But like most good things, the event had run its course. Fox said she and Dykes agreed in February that the 14th year would be the last for the tailgate party and golf tournament. That would allow Seton staff to focus on raising money for the hospital’s children’s healthcare endowment that benefits the Care-A-Van. The tailgate party and golf tournament had already put $1.1 million into the endowment.
“This is going to be the grand finale,” Fox said. “We need to continue to grow the endowment. It’s not going to be an annual event, but we still need people to support the endowment. We’re going to focus on the children’s healthcare endowment.”
But beyond the fundraiser, Dykes was simply a tremendous friend, she said.
“There were times when Spike always lifted our spirits,” she said. “He knew how to rally the troops. He was always so uplifting. He was asked to do so much for so many. One of the reasons we’ve been able to elevate the level of fundraising is because of coach Dykes and coach Bellard, two great gentlemen for children.”
Burnet High School athletics director and head football coach Kurt Jones said he was around Dykes a little but always admired him from afar. As a graduate of Brownwood High School and Abilene Christian University, Jones saw how Dykes treated his family, his players, his staff members, and the fans.
“He had such a unique perspective that fit Texas, West Texas in particular,” Jones said. “People were drawn to him, people wanted to play for him. I think he’s got a legacy that will always be appreciated.”
Llano High School athletics director and head football coach Craig Slaughter had a different perspective when he found out about Dykes’ passing.
Dykes coached Slaughter’s dad, Dan, at Ballinger High School in 1960-61, the only year Dykes was on his alma mater’s coaching staff as an assistant.
Craig Slaughter said Dykes was on the Mount Rushmore of Texas football coaches.
“He’s a legend, a witty guy, a storyteller, and a pleasure to be around,” he said. “When he spent time with you, he was your best friend.”
Dykes had spoken at a Llano High School pep rally and made his way to many high school games when he retired. He still kept in close contact with many of his coaching friends across the state and passed his love of the game and coaching on to his sons, Sonny Dykes, who works as an offensive analyst for Texas Christian University and was the head coach of the University of California-Berkley, and Rick Dykes, who was an offensive coordinator for his dad and later at the University of Arizona.
Along with his sons, Dykes is survived by his daughter, Bebe. Dykes’ wife, Sharon, passed away in 2010.
Slaughter said Dykes’ legacy goes beyond schemes and what he accomplished on the gridiron.
“He just had such a gentle way,” he said. “In my profession, that’s quite a quality to have mannerisms. He was just such a pleasure. He was an inspiration to all of us for how he dealt with people and how he handled himself.”
Services for Dykes are planned for 2 p.m. Thursday, April 13, at First United Methodist Church, 1411 Broadway St. in Lubbock; and 2 p.m. Friday, April 14, at The Church of Horseshoe Bay, 600 Hi Ridge Road in Horseshoe Bay.