Dick MacPherson, former Syracuse head coach in 1980s, dies at 86

Chase Guttman | Staff Photographer

MacPherson finished his time at SU with a 66-46-4 (.586) overall record, including a 4-1 mark in bowl games.

Dick MacPherson, a former Syracuse football coach who led the Orange to five bowl games in 10 seasons as head coach including an undefeated season in 1987, died Tuesday of natural causes. He was 86.

Known as “Coach Mac,” the 2009 College Football Hall of Fame inductee took the helm at SU in 1981. He compiled a 66-46-4 (.586) overall record, including a 3-1-1 mark in bowl games. Syracuse was ranked as high as fourth in a national poll during his tenure.

MacPherson, a Korean War veteran, is known for catapulting the Syracuse program into national prominence, which extended beyond his time as coach, into the 1990s. In 1987-88, SU finished 11-0 in the regular season and tied Auburn, 16-16, in the Sugar Bowl. He was consensus pick for National Coach of the Year. Over his final four seasons, SU went 36-10-3.

His success at the college level launched a career in the NFL. After the 1990 season, he was named head coach of the New England Patriots. He coached there for two seasons before retiring.

“He means the world to Syracuse,” former Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer said in 2015. “Everybody in this community knows it. There’s not a better person. He loves Syracuse, he gave a lot of his life to Syracuse.”

Before Syracuse, MacPherson led Massachusetts to a 45-27-1 record and four conference titles. He worked on the Cleveland Browns staff from 1978-80 before SU hired him prior to the Carrier Dome’s second season.

Syracuse had made only one bowl appearance in the previous 14 years, and went just 34-55-3 in the precious eight seasons.

MacPherson’s landmark victory came in 1984, when SU stunned No. 1 Nebraska, 17-9, in the Carrier Dome.

Two years ago, the coach was honored before a game.

MacPherson is survived by his wife, Sandra, and his two daughters, Maureen and Janet. His grandsons Macky and Cameron played football at Syracuse. Macky enters his second season as a graduate assistant under current head coach Dino Babers.


Top Stories