Pepper Rodgers, one of the more colorful characters in college football history, has died at 88.
The family of Pepper Rodgers confirmed that the long-time college coach died Thursday at the age of 88. Rodgers had been hospitalized following a fall at his home last week.
Rodgers played his college football at Georgia Tech, with the quarterback helping lead the Yellow Jackets to the 1952 national championship. Rodgers would go on to be the head coach at his alma mater from 1974-79.
“I am devastated to learn of the passing of Pepper Rodgers,” Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury said in a statement. “He was a Georgia Tech legend, having won a national championship as an outstanding player and going on to compile four winning seasons in six years as head coach. On a personal note, he was the coach that recruited me to Georgia Tech, and I am eternally grateful to him for bringing me here. If it weren’t for Pepper, I would have never had the opportunity to live out my dreams as a Tech student, football player, alumnus and, now, athletics director. He has also been a mentor and friend throughout my professional career and I will miss him greatly. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Livingston, his family and his many, many friends. We have lost a great Tech man.”
In addition to Tech, Rodgers also served as the head coach at Kansas (1967-70) and UCLA (1971-73). The Atlanta native also spent time as an assistant with the Bruins from 1965-66.
In his three head-coaching stints, Rodgers went 73-65-3. Tech noted in its release that “[h]e was a six-time coach of the year in his 13 seasons as a collegiate head coach – two-time Big Eight Coach of the Year at Kansas, two-time Pac-8 Coach of the Year at UCLA and two-time Southern Independent Coach of the Year at Georgia Tech.”
Prior to that, Rodgers was selected in the 12th round of the 1954 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts. Instead of playing professional football, Rodgers served five years as a pilot in the Air Force. He began his coaching career as an assistant at the service academy in 1958. From there he moved on to Florida from 1960-64 before leaving for UCLA the first time.