Former Gators AD Bill Arnsparger, Longtime NFL and College Coach, Passes Away At 88

By  //  July 20, 2015

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Bill Arnsparger was already a well-known figure in the sports world when he was hired in January 1987 as the University of Florida’s athletic director. (Gatorzone.com Image)

(Gatorzone.com) – Bill Arnsparger was already a well-known figure in the sports world when he was hired in January 1987 as the University of Florida’s athletic director.

Arnsparger was defensive coordinator of Miami’s famous “No-Name Defense” that helped the Dolphins go 17-0 in 1972, still the only perfect season in NFL history.

He also served as head coach of the New York Giants and in the three years prior to coming to Florida, Arnsparger was named SEC Coach of the Year twice by leading LSU to a 26-8-2 record from 1984-86.

Arnsparger, who passed away peacefully at his home in Athens, Ala., on Friday at the age of 88, is best remembered for his time in Gainesville as the man who hired Steve Spurrier in 1990 to lead Florida’s football program into a new decade following a tumultuous stretch in the 1980s.

“We’re getting back to the basics and are looking forward to the decade of the ‘90s,’’ Arnsparger said then.

“In getting back to basics, we are helping our student-athletes earn their degrees, while competing effectively on the conference and national level.”

Arnsparger began to change the culture at Florida during his five-year stint as AD, making several coaching changes during his tenure. Gators volleyball coach Mary Wise was also hired under Arnsparger’s watch.

He left 1992 to return to the NFL for a three-year stint as San Diego’s defensive coordinator. The Chargers made the Super Bowl in 1994, Arnsparger’s final season coaching.

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Meanwhile, Athletic Director Jeremy Foley replaced Arnsparger in March 1992 and has guided the UF athletic department since, leading the Gators into the modern era and to unprecedented success in the program’s history.

Jeremy Foley

Jeremy Foley

“This is a sad day for the Gator Nation. Bill Arnsparger helped right the ship during a very difficult time at the University of Florida,” said Jeremy Foley.

“He, along with President Bob Bryan, hired Coach Spurrier and he set us on a very good path.

“Personally, he was a mentor to me and I was fortunate to work alongside him. Our condolences to his wife B.J., his son David, and his daughter, Mary Susan, and for those that shared his life with him,” said Foley.

Arnsparger accomplished much in his life. At Florida, his role in hiring Spurrier tops the list. Spurrier led the Gators to their first national championship in 1996 and finished a 12-year run at his alma mater with a record of 122-27-1.

Arnsparger was born on Dec. 16, 1926. He also served in the Marine Corps in World War II.

Funeral services will be held in his hometown of Paris, Ky. Arrangements are to be determined.


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