Rayford “Ray” Coates, a longtime teacher and coach at Jesuit High School, died Wednesday of congestive heart failure. He was 89.
After serving as a teacher at Catholic High School in Baton Rouge for six years, he joined the Jesuit faculty in 1959 as a math teacher and assistant football coach under well-known head coach Ken Tarzetti. Following Tarzetti’s death, Coates took over the program from 1966 to 1970, where his teams went a combined 40-12 and made the state playoffs three times.
In all, he worked at the school for nearly 30 years before retiring in 1988.
Before becoming a teacher, Coates was known as an outstanding athlete, playing four sports at Jesuit in the early 1940s. As a two-way football player, he still holds multiple records for the Blue Jays, including a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown against Baton Rouge High School in his senior season of 1943 and a 93-yard punt return for a score against Fortier the same season.
He went on to play at LSU, where he was named the Cotton Bowl MVP in 1947, and had a brief career in the NFL for the New York Giants in 1948-49.
“Jesuit High School was his life, and no one loved Jesuit more than Ray Coates did,” said Frank Misuraca, who worked at the school from 1962 to 2007 as a teacher, baseball coach, and served two stints as athletic director. “Lots of times after he retired, we’d be invited to parties and reunions and such at the school, and Ray was always there. He never missed an opportunity to be with someone from Jesuit. You could be talking to him about anything, and the conversation would always return to Jesuit High School. That’s how much he loved it.
“… He was always faithful to the school. His coaching days were outstanding, and he probably was the most intelligent football coach I’ve ever known. Ray was a football genius. They don’t make them like him anymore; he was just old school football. He was a different breed.”
Coates was married for 60 years to the former Miriam Huerstel, who died less than two months ago. He is survived by two children, Ray Michael Coates and Robin Coates Drewes, as well as four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Coates also had another son, the late Patrick Coates.
Funeral services will be held at noon Monday at Jesuit High School’s Chapel of the North American Martyrs on Banks Street in Mid-City. Visitation is from 9 a.m. to noon.