Gophers Football Legend Dies after Drowning

Max Sanders

William "Billy" Bye, a three time Gophers MVP, died after a drowning accident near his cabin on Bay Lake. Bye was 81.


A halfback, Bye was MVP of the Gophers football team in 1946 when he led Minnesota in scoring and rushing yards. Bye was also named team MVP in 1947 and 1949.


Bye was to be one of five honorary captains for the Gophers first football game at the new TCF Bank Stadium.  "He was so full of life, if I can use that term," Athletic Director Joel Maturi Said. "He was in shape. That’s what makes it so very difficult for me to talk about."


According to the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s department, Bye was on a boat with his wife and friends when the boat propellor became entangled. Bye went into the water to free the motor, and was unable to get back into the boat as it drifted away. Friends on the boat tried throwing life jackets at Bye, but he sank below water and was not seen again until his body was discovered by another boater.


After his collegiate career, Bye was drafted by the Chicago Bears. Once his playing career ended, Bye worked as a high school football coach where he was named high school football coach of the year in 1960 for guiding Edina to an undefeated season. In addition to playing and coaching, Bye did broadcast work for WCCO as well as serving on several university advisory boards.


Coach Brewster called Bye "one of the most-loved Gophers of all time."  The University is planning on honoring Bye, but a decision on how to do so has not been announced as of yet.