Judge orders UCF Coach Gene McDowell’s widow to get memorabilia


A family dispute over who rightfully should possess prized trophies of late coach Gene McDowell – a nephew who claimed to have bought the memorabilia from the coach’s son, or the coach’s widow – was decided with the items being awarded to Peggy McDowell, his widow.

Gene McDowell was a star linebacker for the Florida State Seminoles in the early 1960s and later went on to coach football at the University of Central Florida. One trophy under dispute was his MVP trophy as an FSU player in 1962, and the Eddie Robinson award as the top college football coach in Division 1-AA (now known as the Football Championship Subdivision), which McDowell received in 1990. There was also a football scrapbook that started with him playing ball in Georgia as a kid.
McDowell died in Quincy in January 2021 from leukemia.
At the trial on Friday morning, Feb. 2, before Wakulla County Judge Brian Miller, McDowell’s widow Peggy asked the court to order those items returned to her.
The trophies and scrapbook had been sold to McDowell’s cousin, Kenneth Edwards, who admired the coach and collected memorabilia from his career. The items were sold to him in 2019 by McDowell’s son Blake to support a drug habit.
At an earlier hearing, Blake McDowell testified that the items were given to Edwards for safekeeping because the people around the house, related to his drug use, were taking the coach’s things and selling them. (Coach McDowell was seriously ill at the time.)
Edwards, who lives in Wakulla County, told the court that he was not simply holding the items – he bought them and owned them.
After the coach was inducted into the UCF Hall of Fame, Edwards was in talks with the university to donate the Eddie Robinson trophy to the school.
Edwards’ wife, Janessa, gave tearful testimony that her husband was spending money they didn’t have to buy the memorabilia from Blake – an effort to try to keep it in the family.
But Judge Miller, in announcing his ruling, noted that text messages submitted as evidence between Blake McDowell and Edwards indicated a concern from Blake that if the items weren’t returned the two could be “locked up for dealing in stolen property.”
The judge found the items belonged to the coach, they were not Blake’s to sell, and ordered them returned to Peggy McDowell.
There were a couple of high profile coaches in the courtroom for the trial: FSU Hall of Fame coaches Mickey Andrews and Jim Gladden, friends of McDowell’s, who were there to testify as character witnesses for Peggy McDowell. They were not called to testify.

The Eddie Robinson award is presented annually to the top college football coach in Division 1-AA. This is the trophy won by late UCF Coach Gene McDowell in 1990.