The extended Michigan State football family is mourning the death of George Perles, a legendary figure at the university.
Multiple media outlets are reporting Wednesday that Perles died late Tuesday night; the school subsequently confirmed the development. According to the Detroit Free Press, “Perles died peacefully in East Lansing with his family surrounding him, according to multiple people close to family.”
The 85-year-old, Detroit-born Perles had been battling Parkinson’s disease for the past couple of years.
Below is a statement from current Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio:
Coach Perles exuded confidence, conviction and toughness. He really gave his life to Michigan State, all the way till the end.
“He welcomed me back to MSU when I first became the head coach here. Not many people have been in these shoes, but he was one of them, and was always extremely supportive every step of the way. He was someone you could lean on. Many times over the past 13 years he would speak to our team.
“George was one of the most renowned coaches in America; everybody knew who Coach Perles was and what he brought to the game. He had tremendous success, winning the Rose Bowl and two Big Ten titles, and developed countless NFL players. I first got to know his reputation when I was a graduate assistant at Ohio State. He always brought a blue-collar mentality and really we’ve embraced a lot of things in our program over the years that came from him. He left a legacy and was an impactful figure.
“George was a true Spartan and will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Perles family during this difficult time.
Perles had a lengthy connection to the university in several facets. After serving in the U.S. Army, Perles played football for the Spartans from 1954-56 before injury ended the playing portion of his career. From 1959-70, he was the defensive line coach at his alma mater.
After an 11-year coaching stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers — and one year as the head coach of the USFL’s Philadelphia Stars — George Perles returned to East Lansing as the Michigan State football head coach. In 12 seasons under Perles, the Spartans claimed a pair of Big Ten championships and won the 1987 Rose Bowl.
In 1990, while still head football coach, Perles was named as MSU’s athletic director; he resigned that post two years later. An 0-11 1994 campaign led to his dismissal.
In 2006, Perles was named to the university’s Board of Trustees. Citing health concerns, he stepped down from the board in November of 2018.
According to the Free Press, Perles is survived by his wife, Sally, and their children Kathy, Terry, John and Patrick. They have six grandchildren.