Willard S. (Bill) Belknap passed away on July 17, 2020 after a struggle with Congestive Heart Failure.
Bill was born to Willard L. and Wilma H. Belknap in New Castle, Pennsylvania on March 18, 1939. He is survived by one sister, Linda Lenz, who resides in Fayetteville, PA.
Bill attended the public schools in New Castle, played football, was a class officer, and graduated in 1957. He was recruited to attend the US Military Academy at West Point, entering on July 3rd, 1957 and graduating in 1961 with a commission in the Artillery of the US Army. He served in the 25th Infantry Division, resigning his commission in 1965.
At heart, he was a football coach. He had the good fortune to coach for two years while in the Army and left the service to pursue his dream. He coached football for ten years at the University of Arizona on the staff of four different head coaches while also obtaining his master’s degree. He served for three years as Associate Director of Athletics at UA before moving to the University of Idaho to accept the position of Athletic Director in 1978.
Bill loved the ten years spent as Director of Athletics at the U of I and enjoyed a huge stretch of success. Vandal Athletics was in a slump on his arrival, but with improved fundraising, some very good hires and good fortune, things turned around quickly. Bill hired coaches Don Monson, Dennis Erickson, Keith Gilbertson, Tim Floyd, and Pat Dobratz. Seven different Vandal teams combined to win 13 conference titles, as well as a 1986 WNIT title in women’s basketball. Football and men’s basketball both garnered NCAA top-10 final finishes, and Idaho’s women’s teams earned the 1982-83 All-Sports Champion honor for the Mountain West Athletic Conference during Bill’s tenure. Bill was inducted into the North Idaho Hall of Fame (2003) as well as the University of Idaho Hall of Fame (2008). Following this golden era as the AD of Vandal Athletics, Bill moved into another role serving the University as director of development and executive director of the U of I Foundation during the Centennial Campaign.
Pulled back by his love of athletics, Bill left the U of I to accept the position of NCAA Southland Conference Commissioner, headquartered in Plano, Texas. After three years as Commissioner, his desire to be back on a college campus brought him to Wichita State University where he served as Athletic Director for six years, retiring in 1999.
On Bill’s third day in Arizona in 1965, he had the good fortune of meeting Donna Gayle Sluder on a blind date. They were married ten months later on June 11, 1966. It was a great union and the beginning of a 54-year marriage. Donna taught elementary school on each of Bill’s career stops once the kids reached school age. They have two children, Kimberly and Billy. Kim is in the beauty business, living in Priest River, Idaho and Billy works for the city of Moscow in community development. Each of their children have two of their own. Kim is married to Terry Miller and their daughter, Taylor, is head Volleyball Coach at Spokane Falls Community College. Morgan teaches elementary school in Priest River. She and her husband, Tyler Douglas, have one child, Leighton Lee, 9 months old. Billy and his wife Lisa have Madison, a senior at Moscow High School, and Sawyer a student at Moscow Middle School. The grandchildren and great grandchild have been a source of joy for Bill and Donna.
When Bill and Donna retired in 1999, they purchased an RV and hit the road for two years, traveling coast to coast and border to border before settling down again in Moscow again in 2001. They spent many summer days on the beaches of Luby Bay on Priest Lake in their RV and also spent many winters in Tucson where they made countless memories.
There will not be a funeral service. If you want to do something in remembrance, the family suggests contributing to the Bill Belknap Endowed Scholarship with the U of I Foundation.
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