Prairie du Chien Coach Paul Bebow leaves lasting legacy

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Coach Paul Bebow was a motivator and an inspiration to many.

By Ted Pennekamp


Former Prairie du Chien High School Coach Paul Bebow was an inspiration and a motivator for many students during his coaching and teaching career.

Bebow was head Prairie du Chien football coach from 1964-1990 with an overall record of 168-73-1 in 27 seasons, including 111-53-1 in the SWAL. He is the winningest coach in Prairie du Chien football history by more than 120 wins.

“He was a highly motivated person. He was a great motivational guy and a pay attention to detail kind of guy,” recalled Mark McWilliams, who was a running back and linebacker for Bebow in 1968 and 1969 and an assistant coach under Bebow from 1983 through 1990.

“We would keep running a play over and over until we did it to his satisfaction,” said McWilliams. “He was structured around perfection. He also took losses quite hard. Losing was not in his vocabulary.”

Of the 18 conference championships that Prairie football has ever won, Bebow’s teams won 14 of them. Prairie du Chien football went to the playoffs seven times during his tenure (1976, 1978, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988) with three of those trips ending with state championship runners-up (1978, 1985 and 1988). The top four longest winning streaks in Prairie football history were done by his teams, including 19 wins in a row between 1976 and 1978. 

Bebow was named the La Crosse Tribune’s Coulee Region Coach of the Year in 1988, the only Prairie du Chien football coach to ever earn those honors. Bebow was also an assistant coach for the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association South All-Star Shrine Team in 1987.

“I feel very fortunate to have played under Coach Bebow,” said Jan Waller, who played quarterback and linebacker during the 1976 (10-1) and 1977 (9-0) seasons. “He coached us to be physical and he put a lot of emphasis on execution and attention to detail. I really enjoyed playing for him.”

In addition to football, Bebow was the first wrestling head coach in Prairie du Chien history, coaching from 1969 until 1975 with an overall record of 25-45-1 in seven seasons. He was the winningest wrestling coach in school history until Mel Dow passed him early in the 2004-2005 season. During his six seasons as head coach, he coached the program’s first two state qualifiers in Bob Seymour (fourth place at 145 in 1972) and Kem Kuchenbecker (third place at 138 in 1973) when there was only one division in Wisconsin High School wrestling.

Bebow was also an assistant track coach for 11 years under Jerry Gilbertson.

Coach Bebow was inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1994, joining Cecil Smith as the only Prairie du Chien High School coaches to have ever been inducted. Bebow was also inducted into the Prairie du Chien High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002.

"Coach influenced many young lives throughout his coaching career. I am sure Coach Bebow could have left Prairie du Chien at any time in his coaching career for another job, but this would have broken his heart because he bled Blackhawk blood through his veins for all athletics," said Prairie du Chien High School Principal Andy Banasik, who also played for Coach Bebow. "The number one reason, I went into education and school leadership is because Coach Bebow taught me what it means and how to lead. I can only say, 'Thank you Coach Bebow' by  teaching the same qualities of hard work, loyalty, selfless, positive affirmation, and to remember your roots to other students at Prairie du Chien High School."

Paul Bebow passed away on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at the age of 82. His legacy, however, lives on.

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