Former Gophers football coach Murray Warmath dies at 98

Warmath coached the Gophers from 1954 to 1971, winning a national championship and going to two Rose Bowl games.

Josh Katzenstein

Murray Warmath, the last coach to lead the Gophers football team to a Rose Bowl, died of natural causes at his Bloomington home Wednesday night. He was 98.

Warmath coached in two Rose Bowls at Minnesota and helped the Gophers win the national championship in 1960.

He remains the last Minnesota coach to win a Big Ten title, Rose Bowl and national championship.

“He had a command of football athletes,” M Club president George Adzick said. “It was lasting, all the way till his last breath.”

Warmath is survived by his son Murray Warmath Jr., as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Former Gophers running back Bob McNamara said he will remember Warmath’s smile, laugh and loyalty to the program. Warmath coached Minnesota for 18 seasons (1954-71) with a record 87-78-7.

On Thursday, McNamara had lunch with several former Minnesota football players and coaches. Warmath used to attend the weekly lunches before falling ill this winter. Whenever the coach arrived, “everybody had a little grin,âÄù McNamara said.

While reminiscing about Warmath at Legends Bar and Grill, the group sat beneath a photograph of the former coach and âÄúsaluted a little cocktail in his honor.âÄù

Many will remember Warmath for giving black athletes an opportunity to play football at Minnesota. During his first season with the Gophers, McNamara said, the team only had one black player. Warmath, who grew up in Tennessee, brought black athletes such as Bobby Bell, Sandy Stephens, Judge Dickson and Ezell Jones to the program.

âÄúMurray Warmath will go down in history as recruiting African American athletes from the south that were not given the opportunity to play in the south,âÄù Adzick said.

Those who played for him will remember Warmath as a âÄúno-nonsense guy,âÄù McNamara said.

After the Gophers finished the 1959 season 2-7, marking the third straight sub-.500 season, many fans criticized the coach and wanted him fired. The next season the Gophers went 8-2 and won the national championship, the last in program history.

âÄúHe didnâÄôt knock the fans which they did him, even when he was let go,âÄù McNamara said. âÄúHe kept [the program] going for 60 years because people believed in him.âÄù