Dick MacPherson, who capped a long coaching career with a two-year stint leading the Patriots, has died at the age of 86.
MacPherson was born and raised in New England, played his college football at Springfield College in Massachusetts, and got his first head-coaching job at UMass. So when the Patriots offered him their head-coaching job in 1991, he felt like he couldn’t say no.
But while MacPherson did a solid job in his first season, taking over a team that had gone 1-15 the year before and finishing 6-10, he always seemed more like a college coach. In MacPherson’s second season the Patriots struggled to a 2-14 finish amid talk that players were tuning him out, and MacPherson was fired and replaced with Bill Parcells.
MacPherson’s greatest coaching job came in 1987, when he took a previously moribund Syracuse team to an 11-0 regular season, and a tie with Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. Syracuse, which hadn’t been ranked in 20 years, finished that season No. 4 in the country, and MacPherson won every major coach of the year honor.
That great season was followed by three consecutive bowl victories, and after that the Patriots came calling. Although MacPherson’s coaching career ended with disappointment in New England, his success at the college level earned him a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame.