Fisher DeBerry

Fisher DeBerry
DeBerry speaks at a press conference before the 2000 Silicon Valley Football Classic.
Sport(s) Football, baseball
Biographical details
Born (1938-06-08) June 8, 1938
Cheraw, South Carolina
Playing career
1956–1960 Wofford
Position(s) Flanker, defensive back, linebacker
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1962 Bennettsville (SC) HS (asst.)
1963–1968 Florence (SC) McClenaghan HS (asst.)
1969–1970 Wofford (assistant)
1971–1979 Appalachian State (assistant)
1980 Air Force (QB)
1981–1983 Air Force (OC/QB)
1984–2006 Air Force
1963–1968 Florence (SC) McClenaghan HS
1970 Wofford
Head coaching record
Overall 169–109–1 (football)
5–13 (baseball)
Bowls 6–6
Accomplishments and honors
3 WAC (1985, 1995, 1998)
1 WAC Mountain Division (1998)
AFCA Coach of the Year (1985)
Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award (1985)
Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award (1985)
3x WAC Coach of the Year
State Farm Coach of Distinction (2001)
South Carolina Sports Hall of Fame
Independence Bowl Hall of Fame
Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2011 (profile)

James Fisher DeBerry (born June 8, 1938) is a retired American football player and coach. He served as the head football coach at the United States Air Force Academy from 1984 to 2006, compiling a record of 169–109–1. DeBerry led 17 of his 23 Air Force Falcons squads to winning records and captured 12 bowl game bids. Three times his teams won the Western Athletic Conference title, in 1985, 1995, and 1998. DeBerry retired on December 15, 2006 with the most wins and highest winning percentage (.608) in Air Force football history. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 2011.


DeBerry was born in Cheraw, South Carolina in 1938. In high school, DeBerry was a four-sport varsity letter winner, lettering five times in baseball, three times each in football and basketball and twice in track. He was also an all-state selection in baseball and football. DeBerry graduated in 1960 from Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where he lettered in football and baseball. He was also active in the Kappa Sigma Fraternity while in college.

After six years of coaching and teaching in the South Carolina high school ranks, DeBerry returned to Wofford, where he coached for two years as an assistant when Wofford won 21 consecutive games and was ranked first in the NAIA. For the next nine years, 1971 to 1979, DeBerry was an assistant coach at Appalachian State University. While DeBerry was there, Appalachian State was ranked in the top 10 nationally in either rushing, total offense or scoring offense three times. In 1974, the team ranked sixth nationally in pass defense when he was defensive coordinator.

Air Force football

Ken Hatfield hired DeBerry in 1980 as the Air Force Academy quarterbacks coach. The next year, DeBerry was promoted to offensive coordinator. In 1982, Air Force posted an 8-5 record while averaging 30.4 points per game, and beat Vanderbilt in the 1982 Hall of Fame Classic. After the 1983 season, Hatfield left Air Force for Arkansas after the Falcons' 10-2 season and Independence Bowl victory. DeBerry was promoted to head coach.

During DeBerry's tenure as head coach, Air Force won at least eight games 11 different seasons. DeBerry's first team, in 1984, was 8–4 and beat Virginia Tech in the 1984 Independence Bowl. The next year, the Falcons won 12 games, and were ranked as high as #4 nationally until a 28–21 loss at BYU. In the final Associated Press poll, the Falcons ranked eighth. DeBerry coached the Falcons to three Western Athletic Conference championships: 1985, 1995, and 1998. The 1998 team's 12–1 record completed the first back-to-back 10-win seasons in school history, and finished the season ranked 10th nationally.

DeBerry's Falcons dominated the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy series contested yearly with arch rival military academies Army and Navy. Air Force won the trophy 14 times and shared it once in DeBerry's 21 seasons. However, DeBerry lost the AF-Navy game and, subsequently, the CIC trophy each of his last 4 years at Air Force. He was a combined 34–8 against the Black Knights and Midshipmen and is the winningest coach in service academy history. DeBerry led the Academy to 12 bowl games, in which he had a 6–6 record.

Although DeBerry had been portrayed as a role-model for most of his career, he came under fire for controversial racial remarks made he made in October 2005 after a 48–10 loss to Texas Christian University (TCU). DeBerry said TCU "had a lot more Afro-American players than we did and they ran a lot faster than we did. Afro-American kids can run very well. That doesn't mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can't run, but it's very obvious to me that they run extremely well." Earlier that year, DeBerry had been criticized for a banner posted in the team's locker room that was interpreted by some as inappropriate religious proselytizing.

On December 15, 2006, DeBerry announced his retirement. He now splits his retirement time between South Carolina and Oklahoma, where he owns homes.[1]

Other positions and awards

DeBerry was named WAC Coach of the Year three times in his career, and in 1985, won the Paul "Bear" Bryant Award as NCAA college football's coach of the year. DeBerry was also awarded the State Farm Coach of Distinction award in 2001, and was inducted into the South Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. DeBerry received an honorary doctorate of humanities from Wofford during its graduation ceremony in 2003.

In 1996, DeBerry served as president of the American Football Coaches Association, and is currently the chairman of the AFCA ethics committee. He was honored by the Independence Bowl as a member of its Hall of Fame. In 2005, DeBerry was honored with induction into the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame.

Personal life

DeBerry and his wife, LuAnn, are notably active in church, charity and community affairs. Coach DeBerry gives motivational speeches to religious and corporate groups, and LuAnn is a volunteer with the Ronald McDonald House and the American Cancer Society. DeBerry has strong ties to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and was inducted into the organizations’s Hall of Champions in 2005. He and LuAnn have assisted fund-raising efforts for Easter Seals, the March of Dimes, the Salvation Army and the American Heart Association. DeBerry's son, Joe, played in the Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees and Milwaukee Brewers baseball organizations. DeBerry currently resides in Grove, Oklahoma.

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall ConferenceStanding Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Air Force Falcons (Western Athletic Conference) (1985–1998)
1984 Air Force 8–44–33rdW Independence
1985 Air Force 12–17–1T–1stW Bluebonnet58
1986 Air Force 6–55–23rd
1987 Air Force 9–46–23rdL Freedom
1988 Air Force 5–73–5T–6th
1989 Air Force 8–4–15–1–12ndL Liberty
1990 Air Force 7–53–46thW Liberty
1991 Air Force 10–36–23rdW Liberty2425
1992 Air Force 7–54–4T–5thL Liberty
1993 Air Force 4–81–79th
1994 Air Force 8–46–2T–2nd
1995 Air Force 8–56–2T–1stL Copper
1996 Air Force 6–55–34th (Pacific)
1997 Air Force 10–36–22nd (Pacific)L Las Vegas25
1998 Air Force 12–17–11st (Mountain)W Oahu1013
Air Force Falcons (Mountain West Conference) (1999–2006)
1999 Air Force 6–52–57th
2000 Air Force 9–35–22ndW Silicon Valley
2001 Air Force 6–63–4T–5th
2002 Air Force 8–54–3T–3rdL San Francisco
2003 Air Force 7–53–4T–4th
2004 Air Force 5–63–4T–4th
2005 Air Force 4–73–57th
2006 Air Force 4–83–5T–6th
Air Force: 169–109–1100–73–1
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth

Coaching tree

Assistant coaches under Fisher DeBerry who became NCAA or NFL head coaches:

See also


  1. Jimmie Tramel (2008-09-06). "Ex-Air Force coach at home in Grove". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2008-09-05.
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