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Legendary Tennessee, Pittsburgh football coach Johnny Majors dies at 85

College Football Hall of Fame coach Johnny Majors, who spent 16 seasons at Tennessee and won a national title at Pittsburgh, died Wednesday. He was 85.

“It’s with a sad heart that we make this announcement,” Majors’ wife, Mary Lynn, said in a statement to Sports Radio WNML-FM in Knoxville, Tenn.

“John passed away this morning. He spent his last hours doing something he dearly loved — looking out over his cherished Tennessee River.”

He died at his home in Knoxville. His cause of death was not disclosed.

Majors spent 29 years as a college football coach with tenures at Iowa State, Pittsburgh and Tennessee. He won a National Championship in 1976 with Pittsburgh.

He posted a 24-30-1 record in five seasons at Iowa State from 1968 through 1972. He was 45-45-1 in eight seasons at Pittsburgh. He had a 116-62-8 record in 16 seasons at Tennessee.

Majors had a 9-7 record in bowl games. He coached many All-American players, including Reggie White and Tony Dorsett. His coaching tree includes Jimmy Johnson, Jon Gruden, Phillip Fulmer and Dave Wannstedt.

He led his 1976 Pittsburgh team to a 12-0 regular season record and Sugar Bowl win over Georgia for a national title.

“He led us to our greatest glory and changed Pitt forever,” Pittsburgh’s football program tweeted. “Thank you, Coach. Rest in peace.”

Majors also led Iowa State to its first bowl game appearance in 1971.

“We lost a legend today. Johnny Majors resurrected the Cyclone football program,” Iowa State tweeted.

Majors was a star running back at Tennessee before his career as a coach. He was an All-American, a runner-up for the 1956 Heisman Trophy and two-time MVP of the Southeastern Conference.

He spent the 1957 season with the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League before he was hired as a graduate assistant coach at Tennessee. He also worked as an assistant at Mississippi State and Arkansas, and then was hired at Iowa State.

He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1987.

Majors is survived by son, John, and daughter, Mary, in addition to his wife of 61 years and seven grandchildren.

Notable deaths of 2020


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