Former Syra­cuse foot­ball coach Dick MacPher­son dies

Beloved Coach Mac re­turned Or­ange to na­tional promi­nence

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OBITUARIES -

Well-known for his joc­u­lar­ity and pep­pery, oc­ca­sion­ally off­beat com­ments, Dick MacPher­son was beloved in Syra­cuse for that and so much more. Heck, he likely could have been mayor if he chose to run.

In­stead, he stayed on the foot­ball field and made his mark with the Or­ange, res­ur­rect­ing a de­clin­ing pro­gram and re­turn­ing it to na­tional promi­nence. MacPher­son ar­rived be­fore the 1981 sea­son, tak­ing over a pro­gram that had slumped through a decade of medi­ocrity, pro­duc­ing only three win­ning sea­sons. Af­ter two sea­sons of tran­si­tion, MacPher­son pro­duced a win­ning team in 1983 (6-5).

By the time he left in 1990, MacPher­son had com­piled a 66-46-4 record, de­part­ing as the school’s sec­ond-win­ningest coach.

Two years ago, the univer­sity hon­oured the ca­reer of Coach Mac. Seated in a small ve­hi­cle that trans­ported him to mid­field, he joked with former Syra­cuse great Floyd Lit­tle as he was show­ered with cheers. It was his fi­nal pub­lic ap­pear­ance at the school.

MacPher­son died Tues­day at home in Syra­cuse with his fam­ily at his side, ac­cord­ing to the univer­sity. He was 86. Cause of death was not re­leased.

“Coach Mac and his fam­ily are part of the very fab­ric of Syra­cuse foot­ball,” Or­ange coach Dino Babers said. “The fond­ness with which former play­ers talk about him, you can tell he had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on them both as play­ers and as peo­ple. In my in­ter­ac­tions with Coach Mac, what re­ally stood out was the love he had for Syra­cuse, this univer­sity and the foot­ball pro­gram.”

In 1959, Syra­cuse was the un­de­feated na­tional cham­pion. Be­tween 1967 and MacPher­son’s ar­rival, the Or­ange made only one bowl trip as the pro­gram dropped from the higher ech­e­lons of Di­vi­sion I.

In 1987, he led Syra­cuse to a No. 4 na­tional rank­ing and an 11-0-1 mark, blem­ished only by a tie with Auburn in the Sugar Bowl, and was named na­tional col­lege coach of the year by sev­eral or­ga­ni­za­tions. His ca­reer col­lege coach­ing record was 111-73-5.

A na­tive of Old Town, Maine, MacPher­son was a three-sport star in high school and grad­u­ated from Spring­field Col­lege in 1958. He was a cen­tre on the foot­ball team there and started on the 1956 team that went un­beaten. He was cap­tain of the team as a se­nior and then served in the Air Force dur­ing the Korean War.

Af­ter leav­ing Syra­cuse, he served as head coach of the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots (1991-1993). He also was an as­sis­tant with the Denver Bron­cos (1967-1970) and Cleve­land Browns (19781980). He joined the Bron­cos in 1967 as coach of the lineback­ers and de­fen­sive backs and later was de­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor with Denver be­fore leav­ing in 1970 to be­come head coach at Mas­sachusetts. Af­ter coach­ing there for seven sea­sons, MacPher­son re­turned briefly to the NFL, join­ing the Browns as lineback­ers coach in 1978. He left the Browns to be­come Syra­cuse’s 25th head coach.

AP FILE PHOTO

In this Thurs­day, April 30, 2009 file photo, former Syra­cuse and Mas­sachusetts coach Dick MacPher­son laughs dur­ing the an­nounce­ment of the 2009 Col­lege Foot­ball Hall of Fame class at NAS­DAQ Mar­ket­site in New York.

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