by Mike Magers
Ralph Bowyer was a record-setting coach in Carlsbad (Eddy County), New Mexico for whom Bowyer Stadium is named. In his days as a player, he was considered one of the greatest athletes to attend University of New Mexico earning All-Border Conference honors both in football (1934-35) and basketball (1934-1935 and 1935-1936).
In coaching, he stood for fairness and equality. After integration came to New Mexico, on overnight stays Bowyer would put his teams up in lesser quality hotels so that they could remain together rather than have his black athletes be refused lodging. On a road trip, Boyer once ordered chicken fried steak dinners for the team. When he was told that his black players would have to eat in the kitchen, Bowyer took the entire team and left the restaurant. It was his supporting attitude that encouraged many of his minority players to go on to college.
He was rigid in enforcing discipline. In 1945, he had warned his players against going to a midnight Halloween-week movie before a big game with El Paso Austin. Spotting some of his players in line for the movie, he went in and asked the theater manager to warn his players about attending. Those who still attended sat on the bench for the game. Carlsbad almost went scoreless in the game, only pulling out a win with a last minute touchdown. The lesson may or may not have been learned by all, but it earned him the respect of the team and the town.
As a player at Albuquerque High School, he was All-State in football, basketball, track and baseball from 1929-1932. He was a nine time letterwinner in football, basketball and track at University of New Mexico. As a Carlsbad coach, he won eight state football titles during his tenure from 1943 to 1967. Two of those years (1946 and 1947), he coached teams that won state titles in football, basketball and track. Five of his players went on to play in the NFL. He served as athletic director at New Mexico Highlands University from 1967 to 1972 and was inducted into the Albuquerque Sports Hall of Fame in 1975.
He was beloved by his players, many of whom considered him to be a father figure and remained in close contact with him for the rest of his life. His high school coaching records were 171-109-10 in football, with eight* state titles, 365-137 in basketball with three state titles and two state titles in track. In his senior years, he was an active Senior Olympian, golfer, fisherman and artist.
Carlsbad’s football stadium is named in his honor. It has been said that it is not just Bowyer Stadium, but Ralph Bowyer Stadium. Each year the New Mexico High School Coaches Association (of which he was a founding member) honors him by awarding the Ralph Bowyer Coaching for Character Award.
* NMAA lists only six championships. The official reason for the difference is unknown, but in years prior to about 1950, there was no sanctioned state championship system.