Houston ISD’s Joe Tusa, the trailblazer, dies after a decorated career

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HOUSTON – How many times have you passed Delmar-Tusa Sports Complex?

The legendary Houston Independent School District field is in the heart of the city. Sometimes, we forget the names on the stadium.

Joe Tusa died this week at the age of 94. Tusa was the HISD athletic director for more than two decades during some of the most important moments in the history of Texas high school sports.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, Tusa saw Houston high schools through integration and Title IX.

"He wrote me a handwritten letter when I got this job to just congratulate me," HISD AD Andre Walker said. "I still have it in my desk today.

“He was our rock star. He would come to games and was so humble. He made everyone feel like a million bucks. He was just special that way,” Walker said.

Tusa played football at Reagan High School and Rice University. He coached football at Reagan as an assistant and head coach from 1953-1959, before becoming an assistant principal at Waltrip High School in 1960.

He took over the HISD AD position in 1965.

Tusa played a big role in organizing the coaches and athletic director associations in Houston and Texas. The awards are countless from being named the National AD of the Year to being inducted into countless Halls of Fame in the state. He was also selected for the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame.

Under his direction, he saw Yates win a state football title in 1985 and Wheatley basketball win three-straight state titles. Sharpstown won a baseball state title in 1982 and Yates girls hoops won state in 1983.

Tusa was at the epicenter of HISD’s heyday and laid the foundation for high school sports in Houston and in the Lone Star State.