Austin College is saddened by the passing of legendary alumnus Gene “Duke” Babb on December 2. Babb was a star on the Kangaroo football team and a member of the Austin College Class of 1957.
Babb was a 1969 inductee into the Austin College Athletics Hall of Honor and the football program continues to recognize his contributions by handing out the Gene Babb Award annually, going to the team’s most outstanding player.
A native of Odessa, Babb came to Sherman in 1953 and after a historic career on the gridiron, was drafted in the 19th round by the San Francisco 49ers. He also played for the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Oilers during his professional career, which spanned from 1957 to 1963. He played both fullback and linebacker at the professional level.
“Duke Babb has always been, and will always be a part of Austin College athletics,” AC athletics director David Norman said. “His athletic prowess as one of the best, if not the best, athletes in Austin College history does not compare to the impact he has had as a supporter, mentor, and encourager not only of myself but the many coaches and athletes who knew him.”
Babb returned to Sherman following his playing career, serving as a coach for the ‘Roos for four seasons before becoming the head coach at Southern Methodist University. He coached at SMU for one season before becoming the defensive coordinator for Oklahoma State University, a role in which he served for three seasons from 1969 through 1971.
He transitioned from coaching to scouting and was instrumental in helping develop the NFL Scouting Combine. Babb became a scout for the Atlanta Falcons following his career on the sidelines and then went to work for National Football Scouting, where he served as president and director of the annual National Invitational Combine for 23 years until his retirement. Babb also served on the Board of Directors of NFL Films.
In addition to the Babb Award being named in his honor and being a Hall of Honor inductee, in 2005 he also received Austin College’s Distinguished Alumni Award, and in 2009 the football scoreboard was dedicated in his honor. A classroom in the Mason Athletics Complex also bears his name.
He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Gerry Reed Babb; daughter, Tracy Babb Frazier and her husband Steve Frazier; and his brother, Fred Babb.