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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,090

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This is the grave of Dick MacPherson.

Born in 1930 in Old Town, Maine, MacPherson became a football player as a kid and played college ball at Springfield College in Massachusetts, a Division III school, where he played both center and linebacker. He started going into coaching by the late 1950s, first becoming a Graduate Assistant at the University of Illinois in 1958. He then followed the usual path of a coach, moving every couple of years to whatever the next job might be. He became an assistant at the University of Massachusetts in 1959 and 1960, followed by four years at the University of Cincinnati. In 1966, he became defensive backs coach at Maryland. Then the Denver Broncos brought him on board to coach linebackers and defensive backs in 1967. He stayed in that position until 1970.

MacPherson became head coach of UMass in 1971. Today, UMass is a disaster. There’s no good reason at all that this school should be playing in the FBS. It is probably, along with New Mexico State, the most nonsensical program in college football, a completely hopeless operation far away from any recruiting centers and with no local support. In any case, MacPherson actually managed to make them OK. At this point though, this was a Division II program, where it should be. They weren’t great in those days, but they were OK and managed to make the playoffs in 1977, when the team went 8-3. Overall, MacPherson went 45-27-1 at UMass.

In 1978, MacPherson decided to make another stab at the NFL and became the linebackers coach for the Cleveland Browns. He coached there until 1980. Then he got his dream job–as the head coach at Syracuse University. The first years of Syracuse were not particularly great. He went 2-9 in his second year, then managed some six win seasons. So things were OK. But he turned that program around. He took them to the Cherry Bowl in 1985 with a seven win season. Then in 1987, he led Syracuse to the greatest year in team history when they went 11-0-1, with a tie in the Sugar Bowl. Syracuse finished 4th in the nation that year, unheard of for that team. He won the Walter Camp Coach of the Year that year, as well as about every other award one could win. He followed that up with three more excellent seasons, where he took the team to the Hall of Fame, Peach, and Aloha Bowls respectively. That included a 10-2 team in 1988 when they finished 12th in the nation. Overall, MacPherson went 66-46-4 at Syracuse.

In 1991, MacPherson took the job as the head coach of the New England Patriots. Of course the Pats are total dynasty today under Belichick, but they weren’t generally a good team before this and they sure weren’t good under MacPherson. He coached there for two years and it was pretty well a disaster. He went 6-10 in the first season and then the team just fell apart in the second season, when they went 2-14. The Patriots decided to move on at that point.

At this point, MacPherson decided to retire from coaching. He did radio work for Syracuse football for several years and moved back there to be embraced by the local community as their own coaching legend. In 2009, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He died in 2017, at the age of 86.

Dick MacPherson is buried in Oakwood Cemtery, Syracuse, New York.

If you would like this series to visit other college football coaches, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Howard Jones is in Middletown, Ohio and Jess Neely is in Pflugerville, Texas. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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