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Saturday, May 11, 2019

Dick Tomey, former Arizona football coach, dies at 80

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Tucson, Ariz. (AP) — Dick Tomey, the winningest football coach in University of Arizona history, has died at 80.

He died surrounded by family Friday night in Tucson, his family and the university said. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in December.

“We are all heartbroken to lose him, but are forever grateful to have shared his life,” the family said in a statement Saturday.

Tomey spent 14 years at Arizona, going 95-64 while taking the Wildcats to seven bowl games, including the Fiesta Bowl in 1993. Arizona went 12-1 in 1998 under Tomey and beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl to finish a program-best No. 4 in The Associated Press poll.

Tomey coached defensive backs at the University of Kansas while working on head coach Pepper Rodgers’ staff from 1967-70.

He began his career as a head coach at Hawaii in 1977 and closed it at San Jose State before retiring in 2009 at 71. Tomey was 183-145-7 overall in 20 years as a coach.

“On the football field he was a tough as nails coach, who loved fierce competition and the thrill of team building,” the family said. “He loved his players, every single one of them — always.

“He was hard on them. He constantly raised the bar. He could do that because he knew how to find the goodness and the talent in people. If he didn’t find it immediately, he kept looking until he did, and once he found goodness/talent he never lost sight of it.”

Born in Indiana, Tomey graduated from DePauw University and got his first varsity job coaching defensive backs at Davidson in 1985 after stints coaching freshmen teams at Miami of Ohio and Northern Illinois.

Tomey spent four seasons at KU before following Pepper Rodgers to UCLA. He was the Bruins defensive coordinator in 1976 before being named Hawaii’s coach in 1977.

Tomey turned around the Rainbow Warriors, leading the program to its first AP ranking in 1981. He went 63-46-3 at Hawaii before being hired to replace Larry Smith at Arizona in 1987. Tomey went 25-35 in five seasons at San Jose State.

He is survived by his wife, Nanci; a son, Rich, and daughter Angie.

The family said a celebration of life will be announced later.

Comments

Brad Avery 1 week, 1 day ago

I did not know Coach Tomey well, but I regret his passing. He coached baseball one summer at Ron Mott Baseball Camp which I attended as a 13-year-old. I ran in to him at KU in my freshman year, and for some reason he remembered me (it was not because of my baseball prowess). We shared a couple of laughs and revealed that he never got paid for that summer. That obviously did not affect his coaching career because he turned out to be an exceptional football coach.

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