Editor’s Note: Oklahoma has lost two sports legends recently with the passing of Tulsa’s Gene Shell and Oklahoma’s Billy Tubbs. Tubbs will be profiled in the December GTR issues.
The architect of one of college baseball’s dynasties in the 1960s, Tulsa baseball coach Gene Shell, died on Oct. 8 at the age of 90.
Shell posted a career record of 478 wins, 199 losses for a .706 winning percentage in his 15 seasons coaching the Golden Hurricane.
During his TU career, Shell’s team made the College World Series twice, won seven Missouri Valley Conference championships, placed second in the league six times, advanced to the NCAA District 5 playoffs six times and five times to the District 5 championship game.
“We are saddened by the news of Coach Shell’s passing. He will be an iconic figure in TU sports history forever,” said Director of Athletics Rick Dickson. “In my time as a TU student-athlete in the 1970s, coach was legendary for not only the success he achieved at Tulsa, but on the state high school level before that. We extend our sincerest sympathies and prayers to Coach Shell’s family.”
After winning four state prep titles, Shell made the jump to collegiate ranks in 1966. At Tulsa, he served as an assistant football coach and freshman basketball coach, but it was the sport of baseball in which his illustrious 15-year career took off.
Shell also served as an assistant football coach for the Golden Hurricane in his early years at the school.
His first team chalked up a 15-9 record and a second-place performance in the Missouri Valley Conference. After that initial season, Tulsa’s win total increased each of the following three seasons to 19, 24 and 39 victories. In the fourth year, 1969, Shell’s team posted a 39-5 record and advanced to the College World Series.
On its way to the World Series, Tulsa defeated Oklahoma State twice in the NCAA District 5 Playoffs. In Omaha, the Hurricane defeated UCLA (6-5), Texas (4-2) and New York University (2-0) in advancing to the championship series against Arizona State, and finishing as the national runners-up.
Two years later, Shell took his team back to the College World Series, posting a 35-12 record in 1971 and finishing in third place nationally. Despite losing in the 1972 District 5 playoffs, the Hurricane put together its most wins in school history with a 44-6 mark and was ranked No. 1 in the nation during the campaign.
In his career, Shell was named the Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year three times and earned District 5 Coach of the Year honors twice. His teams ranked among the country’s top-10 in seven of his 15 seasons.
Shell coached 16 All-Americans, 45 all-conference selections, eight Pan American players, 73 players who signed professional contracts and 32 players made it onto major league rosters.
He also coached at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana University) from 1985-87, where he posted a 75-43 record.
Shell was inducted into The University of Tulsa Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002. He was also honored by the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame for Distinguished Service in 2007.
Shell was a three-sport all-state athlete in football, basketball and baseball at Webster High School, and coached all three sports in a seven-year high school career that included stops at Claremore, Webster and Edison.
For an interesting profile about Gene Shell written by award-winning sports writer Terrell Lester in 2014, visit gtrnews.com and search Gene Shell.