Murray Warmath Dies: Legendary Minnesota Football Coach Dead At Age 98
MINNEAPOLIS -- The football coach who led the Minnesota Gophers to a national championship and two back-to-back Rose Bowls has died at age 98.
Murray Warmath died Wednesday in Bloomington of natural causes, the University of Minnesota said in a statement on its Web site. University spokesman Preston Smith told The Associated Press that Warmath died about 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Warmath led the Gophers for 18 seasons and made two trips to the Rose Bowl. He was named coach in 1954. After the Gophers finished in last place in the Big Ten in 1959, angry fans tossed garbage on his front lawn and hung the coach in effigy.
But it was just a year later that Warmath led Minnesota to the national championship.
Warmath, raised in Tennessee, was remembered for his hard-nosed discipline and desire for social change. He was one of the first major college coaches to take a number of black athletes in a single recruiting class. Big Southern colleges were still segregated at the time and many Northern colleges refused to recruit black players. Warmath started one of his black recruits, sophomore Sandy Stephens, at quarterback.
"If Minnesota let Sandy Stephens play quarterback, then we knew we could trust Murray," tackle Ezell Jones said. "We knew that was a man who had a great deal of courage and character."
The Gophers, with Stephens at quarterback, played on national TV in the 1961 and 1962 Rose Bowls.
"There was no Super Bowl then," said Judge Dickson, a halfback from 1959 to 1961. "And there weren't a lot of (college) bowls like there are today. The most visible bowl was the Rose Bowl. (Black athletes) were heavily influenced by watching us play in the Rose Bowl."
Minnesota finished second in the Big Ten in 1961 and was selected to go to the Rose Bowl again when Ohio State declined an invitation. The Gophers beat UCLA 21-3 in the 1962 Rose Bowl.
The Gophers shared the Big Ten title with Purdue and Indiana in 1967. It's the last time Minnesota has had at least a share of the conference championship.
Warmath became a Vikings assistant coach in 1978.