Legendary Football Coach Carl Madison Honored On His 90th Birthday

January 17, 2021

Legendary high school football coach Carl Madison celebrated his 90th birthday Saturday surrounded by former players and colleagues, friends and guests at Hillcrest Baptist Church.

Madison led the Tate Aggies to a 1980 state championship and took the Pine Forest Eagles to two state championships in 1987 and 1988. He is one of the all-time winningest high school coaches in the nation.

“I’m just proud of it. I appreciate all of them coming and doing the things that they’ve done,” Madison said Saturday. “Hell, I never dreamed of this.”

Madison sits at number two on Florida’s all-time football coaching victories list with a 326-129-7 record.

“I can recall Coach Madison saying, ‘wanting to win is not good enough. You’ve got to hate to lose. It has to burn in your gut.’ That has stuck with me since,” remarked Steve Campbell, former head football coach at the University of South Alabama.

He led the Tate Aggies to a 1980 state championship, and took the Pine Forest Eagles to two state championships in 1987 and 1988. The 1988 Eagle team was named as national champions by USA Today, and Madison earned the title of the National High School Football Coach of the Year. All in all, he coached at five different Florida High Schools including Ernest Ward, plus three out of state schools.

“He was not only my high school football coach, or the head coach I ended up starting my educational career under, he is my friend,” said Keith Leonard, current assistant superintendent of Human Resource Services for the Escambia County School District. “He’s my mentor, someone I care very, very deeply about. I love him.”

His football days began early at Escambia County High School in Atmore where he played tailback under Coach Herbert Barnes from 1945 to 1947, making him one of Atmore’s semi-famous “Barnes Boys” with 30 straight wins. After a stint in the Army, from 1950 to 1952, Madison played college ball for Texas Tech and Troy State Teachers College in the mid-1950s.

Fresh out of college, Madison coached for four years beginning in 1957 at Ernest Ward High School in Walnut Hill. He moved to Milton High in 1961, coaching them to a state championship and 34 straight victories. He then took a coaching job at a Georgia High School, losing a state championship game in 1968.

Madison joined the coaching staff at Tate in 1971 on his way to winning that 1980 state championship. He left Tate in 1983, heading to Pensacola High for a couple of years. Then it was off to Pine Forest and those back-to-back state championships. He coached at an Albany, Georgia, school, another 10 years at Milton High and another short period at PHS during the period from 1989 until 2002.

“Coach Madison was like a father figure to many of us even though he may not have known it at the time,” said Mike Bennett, head football coach at Escambia High School. “As players, he treated us all the same; no favorites. He taught me about being punctual and accountable. We still talk from time to time. I treasure those conversations. He’s an amazing man.”

In 2002, he took the head coach job at the small Jackson Academy in Alabama. The then 71-year old took over a team that had gone 0-10 prior to his arrival. He lost his first two games at Jackson, but he went on to win the state championship. The following year, Jackson was undefeated and won another state championship.

In 2009, Madison briefly came out of retirement to once again take to the field at Tate, this time as an offensive consultant.

“Trust me, being his nephew and his quarterback was not very fun for me quite often,” said Scotti Madison, Vanderbilt University Hall of Fame inductee and All-American. “It wasn’t practice; it was perfect practice. Every day, over and over again. Other than my father however, he was the most important man in my life.”

The Escambia County School Board will consider a resolution at their January 19, 2021, meeting to name the Tate High football field as “Carl Madison Field.” The stadium will continue to be known as the Pete Gindl Stadium.

Photos by WEAR 3 for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.


6 Responses to “Legendary Football Coach Carl Madison Honored On His 90th Birthday”

  1. Elijah Bell on January 24th, 2021 12:15 pm

    I was a young coach at Jay the year he returned to Walnut Hill for a one year stay. He got down to the goal line going in and lined up with twelve players on offense. He disguised it so well the officials didn’t notice. Of course they scored and they won the game but not because of that play they were better than us that night. I grew to love and respect Coach Maddison and enjoyed going to coaching clinics with him. He once took me to the dog track with him in Tampa—-the rest of the story is our secret,

  2. Pvh ('Johhny') Ng on January 20th, 2021 2:17 am

    Coach Madison and winning football, a tradition going back to the late 70’s. Our opponents from Escambia and Santa Rosa counties had to improve their support in response to Tate running up scores on them. Several thousand of his players have benefited from those the coach’s inspiring style. Ernest Geib Flatulence. The coach saw something in all of his players, he pushed and encouraged some to play way above their expected level of play. His teams believed playing at 100% meant winning! Was a great celebration though more could have been there. A very deserving man: Coach Carl Madison.

  3. Bob Hughes on January 18th, 2021 7:02 pm

    Coach Madison has help mold winning football in this area starting back in the early 70’s. All the other teams in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties wanted to get better because Tate would run up the score on them. Several of Coaches player have impacted these other schools and have benefited from those the coach has inspired. The coach saw something in all of his players, he pushed and encouraged some of us to play way above what we thought was our level of play. He made us believe that if we all played each play for 10 seconds at 100% we could win. We have used a lot of the lessons taught to us from the coach and his assistants. Great to be there for the celebration wish more would have been there. Thanks for all that made this happen to a very deserving man Coach Carl Madison.

  4. Billy Howard on January 18th, 2021 10:06 am

    Was fortunate enough to meet this man when he came back to Tate as an OC back in 09. He still had that DRIVE within him, even that later in life. Sat many days talking about LIFE,In general, with him. So, I can see where these that commented in the article and responses, can see more than a Football Coach. Yes, he “talked” football but he was more interested in making those players better men for this world. So, Congratulations Coach Madison on this great award. My prayers for you and your family as your Beloved wife passed away the following morning. Rest in Heaven Miss Gracie

  5. Steve Bates on January 17th, 2021 11:05 pm

    Coach Madison is an incredible man, amazing coach, and a fierce competitor. The legacy he leaves behind as a coach and a mentor will be difficult for anyone to surpass.

  6. Shirley Hales on January 17th, 2021 1:09 pm

    My daughter and son were going to Tate, and both were in the band during the time that Coach Madison was at Tate. I’ll never forget the year Tate football team won the Champion. That same year the Showband of the South won the National Championship. What a great year 1980 was for Tate. I was sad Coach Madison left Tate, but also proud that my children were students at Tate. My brothers, sisters and myself were all students there. The Aggies will always hold a special place in my heart. GO AGGIES!!!!!!

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