Notable 2017 sports passings, from DeFord to Nobis to Hannon to Baylor

After saying goodbye to giants like Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer, Gordie Howe and Pat Summitt in 2016, this year saw the passings of more memorable names — coaches credited for reviving their college programs into national powers, executives who guided their professional teams into dynasties, and athletes who passed away too young.

Here’s a look back at some notable losses in sports this year.


Charismatic, Feb. 19. The son of 1990 Preakness Stakes winner Summer Squall, Charismatic won the first two legs of the 1999 Triple Crown and was leading in the stretch of the Belmont Stakes before suffering a fractured foreleg. He never raced again but spent his final years as a stud in Japan and the United States. He was 20.

Ed Garvey, Feb. 22. In his 12 years as the executive director of the NFL players’ union, Garvey oversaw two players strikes — first, a summer-time strike in 1974 to fight the so-called “Rozelle Rule” that forced a player’s new team to compensate his old team with players or draft picks if he signed with another team once a contract was over, then again in 1982, when players stayed off the field until mid-November and caused the season to be cut to only nine games (the union wanted 55 percent of the league’s gross revenue be paid to players). He was 76.

Bernie Custis, Feb. 23. Considered to be modern professional football’s first black quarterback, Custis was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1951 and later became the starter for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, leading them to a Grey Cup championship in 1953. (The Browns wanted him to be a safety, not a quarterback). Custis was 88.


Lou Duva, March 8. Duva, a Hall of Fame boxing trainer and manager, helped mold 19 champions, including heavyweight Evander Holyfield and welterweights Pernell Whitaker and Meldrick Taylor. He was 94.

Jerry Krause, March 21. The architect of the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s, Krause won six NBA titles and was twice named the NBA’s executive of the year as the team’s general manager. Among his big finds were Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Charles Oakley and Toni Kukoc. He was 77.

Dallas Green, March 22. Green, as manager, guided the Philadelphia Phillies to their first World Series title in 1980 before also managing the New York Yankees and Mets. He was 82.


Dan Rooney, April 13. The son of Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney, Dan Rooney became one of the NFL’s most influential executives. He took over the Steelers in the 1960s and guided the franchise to six NFL championships, including four Super Bowls in the 1970s. His lasting legacy, however, may be the Rooney Rule, created in 2003 requiring teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation positions. He was 84.

Aaron Hernandez, April 19. A tragic case of an NFL star who fell from grace, Hernandez was a star tight end for the New England Patriots from 2010-12, with 175 career receptions for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Patriots drafted him in the fourth round, one day after taking Rob Gronkowski. But his career crashed when he was arrested in 2013 for the murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional player who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee. He was found guilty in 2015 and sentenced to life in prison. While in prison, he later was indicted for a 2012 double homicide but was acquitted in 2017; days later, however, Hernandez — who was in the process of appealing his 2015 conviction — was found dead in his cell. His death was ruled a suicide. He was 27.

Germaine Mason, April 20. Mason won a high jump silver medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics for Great Britain. He was killed in a motorcyle crash in Jamaica. He was 34.


Nicky Hayden, May 22. Hayden, a MotoGP star who won the 2006 world championship, died five days after a cycling accident in Italy. He was 35.

Cortez Kennedy, May 23. The 1992 NFL defensive player of the year, Kennedy was a run-stopping defensive tackle and an eight-time Pro Bowler for the Seattle Seahawks, who took him third overall in the 1990 draft. He was 48.

Jim Bunning, May 26. Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher, threw the first perfect game in modern National League history in 1958 with the Philadelphia Phillies. A nine-time All-Star, Bunning later became a U.S. senator from Kentucky. He was 85.

Frank DeFord, May 28. One of the great scribes of sports journalism, DeFord wrote for “Sports Illustrated” from 1962 until his death, was a TV correspondent for “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” wrote 18 books including nine novels and was six times voted national sportswriter of the year. His archives are stored at the University of Texas. He was 78.


Larry Grantham, June 17. Grantham, a linebacker, played 13 seasons in the NFL from 1960-72. He was a defensive captain for the 1969 New York Jets, helping them upset the Baltimore Colts in the historic Super Bowl III victory. He called all the team’s defensive formations. He was 78.

Tony DiCiccio, June 19. The National Soccer Hall of Famer was the popular coach of the U.S. women’s national team from 1994-99, winning the World Cup in 1999 and an Olympic gold medal in 1996. His teams lost only eight matches during his six years. He was 68.

Anthony Young, June 27. Young pitched in the MLB for six seasons with the New York Mets, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, best known for setting an MLB record for losing 27 straight games in which he had a decision. He was 15-48 in his career but also had a 3.89 ERA. He was 51.

Max Runager, June 30. An NFL punter for 11 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns, played in two Super Bowls, winning a title in 1984. He was 61.


Gene Conley, July 4. Conley was a two-sport star, pitching 11 seasons for four different teams from 1952-63 and also playing in the NBA from 1958-64. He and Otto Graham are the only two athletes to win championships in two of the four major sports — the 1957 World Series with the Milwaukee Braves and three NBA titles with the Boston Celtics in 1959, 1960 and 1961. He was 86.

Jim Bush, July 10. A National Track and Field Hall of Fame coach, Bush won five NCAA men’s outdoor national championships and coached 30 Olympians while heading UCLA’s program from 1965-84. He also worked with prominent professional athletes, earning him a Super Bowl ring (Los Angeles Raiders), a World Series ring (Los Angeles Dodgers) and an NBA championship ring (Los Angeles Lakers). He was 90.

Chuck Blazer, July 13. Blazer was the executive vice president of the U.S. Soccer Federation from 1984-86 and also an executive committee member of FIFA — soccer’s international governing body — from 1997 to 2013. He became embroiled in the wide-ranging federal investigation into soccer-related improprieties and in 2013 pleaded guilty to 10 counts of corruption that included racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. Blazer was never sentenced, though FIFA banned him from soccer-related activities for life in 2015. He was 72.

William “Hootie” Johnson, July 14. As the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club from 1998 to 2006, Johnson was credited with directing two major overhauls of the golf course, changing the way players qualify for the Masters tournament and the deal that brought 18-hole television coverage for the first time. His 2002 disagreement with Martha Burk of the National Council of Women’s Organizations over admission of female members to Augusta National made national headlines. He was 86.


Ara Parseghian, Aug. 2. As head football coach of Notre Dame, Parseghian won two national championships in 1966 and 1973 and was credited for reviving Fighting Irish program. In his 11 seasons he went 95-17-4, including a 21-17 loss to Texas in the 1969 Cotton Bowl and the 24-11 win over Texas in the 1970 Cotton Bowl that ended the Longhorns’ 30-game winning streak. He was 94.

Don Baylor, Aug. 7. Baylor, who was born in Austin, played 19 MLB seasons for six teams, most notably for the California Angels. He won the 1979 AL MVP award and won a World Series with the Minnesota Twins in 1987. He hit 338 career home runs and 1,276 RBIs. After his playing career, he managed the expansion Colorado Rockies for six years and the Chicago Cubs for three. He was 68.

Darren Daulton, Aug. 6. A three-time All-Star with the Philadelphia Phillies, Daulton won the 1997 World Series title with the Florida Marlins. He led the NL in RBIs in 1992. He was 55.

Dick MacPherson, Aug. 8. Credited with reviving the Syracuse program, MacPherson went 111-73-5 as a college coach and also led the New England Patriots from 1991 to 1992, going 8-24. He was 86.

Bryan Murray, Aug. 12. Murray won 620 career games as an NHL coach and led teams to the playoffs 13 times. He was 74.

Frank Broyles, Aug. 14. Broyles was one of the giants of the Southwest Conference, going 149-62-6 in his Arkansas career with seven SWC titles. He coached against Darrell Royal’s Texas Longhorns in two of college football’s greatest games — the 14-13 win over top-ranked Texas in 1964 and the 15-14 loss to Texas in the 1969 “Game of the Century.” He was 92.

Rollie Massimino, Aug. 30. The legendary college basketball coach won 816 career victories and led Villanova to an underdog victory over Georgetown for the 1985 national championship. Massimino left the Wildcats after 19 seasons in 1992 and went on to coach at UNLV, Cleveland State and Keiser University, where he won his 800th game in 2016. He was 82.


Sean Adams, Sept. 14. Adams, an Austin sports radio fixture who had covered Texas Longhorns athletics since 2004, was known for his positive outlook on life, infectious smile and personality and a 10-year radio career that spanned different stations. He also wrote two books — “Sports for Life: Daily Sports Themes for Life Success” in 2006 and “It’s Okay to be Crazy” in 2010. He was 46.

Jake LaMotta, Sept. 19. LaMotta, a former world middleweight champion, was a fixture in boxing during the 1950s highlighted by six notable fights with Sugar Ray Robinson. He was nicknamed “The Raging Bull” for his rough-and-tumble in and out of the ring and was the subject of Martin Scorsese’s 1980 film of the same name. He was 95.


Connie Hawkins, Oct. 7. The famed power forward and center for the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks is a member of the Suns’ Ring of Honor, and his No. 42 is retired by the team. He averaged 18.7 points and 8.8 rebounds in his career. He was 75.

Y.A. Tittle, Oct. 8. Tittle, who was born in Marshall and played at LSU, was a seven-time Pro Bowler and the NFL’s MVP in 1963 who led the New York Giants to three titles and is a San Francisco 49ers Hall of Famer. He was 90.

George Hannon, Oct. 19. Hannon, one of the country’s greatest golf teachers who counted major winners Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite among his pupils, replaced the great Harvey Penick as men’s golf coach at Texas in 1963, leading the Longhorns to 12 Southwest Conference titles and two national championships. The PGA Hall of Famer was 93.


Roy Halladay, Nov. 7. Halladay was a two-time Cy Young Award winner who pitched 16 MLB seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies. He threw a perfect game in 2010 and a no-hitter in the 2010 playoffs. An eight-time All-Star, he retired in 2013 with a career record of 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA and 2,117 strikeouts. Halladay, who had a pilot’s license, died in a single-engine plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico. He was 40.

Jana Novotna, Nov. 19. The serve-and-volleyer from the Czech Republic won Wimbledon in 1988 as well as 12 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, four mixed doubles titles and three Olympic medals. She was 49.

Terry Glenn, Nov. 20. Glenn, the former wide receiver who starred at Ohio State and then the New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, played 12 NFL seasons and finished his career with 8,823 yards and 44 touchdowns. He was killed in a car crash near Dallas. He was 43.


Ron Meyer, 5. Meyer, who coached SMU to national prominence during the Eric Dickerson and Craig James years of the late 1970s and early 1980s, also coached in the NFL with the New England Patriots an Indianapolis Colts. He had a 61-40-1 career in college and a 54-50 mark in the NFL, winning one Southwest Conference title (1981) and was twice the AFC coach of the year in the NFL. The SMU program, however, fell under NCAA scrutiny after he left and the Mustangs were given the NCAA’s “death penalty” in 1987, five years after Meyer left, for violations that partly occurred while he was there. He was 76.

Tommy Nobis, Dec. 13. Before he became “Mr. Falcon” — the first-ever draft pick of the expansion Atlanta Falcons — Nobis was an All-American linebacker for the Texas Longhorns, starring both as a guard and a linebacker for Darrell Royal, including the 1963 Texas national championship team. He was 74.

Dick Enberg, Dec. 21. Enberg, a beloved sportscaster, provided play-by-play for NBC, CBS and ESPN broadcasts for nearly 60 years until he retired in 2016. Among his highlights were eight Super Bowls, the 1987 AFC championship game between the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns, the 1979 NCAA men’s basketball championship game that featured Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, numerous Wimbledons paired with Bud Collins and John McEnroe, and several golf broadcasts of the Masters and PGA Championships. He was 70.

Ray Akins, Dec. 26. Akins — the father of former Texas quarterback Marty Akins and grandfather of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, became a Texas high school coaching fixture in the 1970s and 1980s. He turned Gregory-Portland into a state power, winning a then-state record 12 consecutive district titles and was the state’s second-most winningest coach in state history when he retired in 1988. He was 93.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

Oklahoma City Blue come back to win over Austin Spurs

With the top seed of the conference sealed up, the Austin Spurs fell to the Oklahoma City Blue 98-94 on the road Thursday night. The Spurs (31-18) led by as many as 22 points, but Oklahoma City (27-22) pulled off the comeback behind tough defense and hot shooting late in the game. Jaron Blossomgame and Derrick White each scored 24 points for Austin...
Dell Match Play standings, results

WGC-DELL TECHNOLOGIES MATCH PLAY STANDINGS, RESULTS GROUP 1 Golfer;Wins;Losses;Ties Kevin Kisner;1;0;1 Adam Hadwin;1;0;1 Bernd Wiesberger;1;1;0 Dustin Johnson;0;2;0 Thursday’s matches (38) Hadwin def. (1) D. Johnson, 4 and 3 (32) Kisner def. (52) Wiesberger, 5 and 4 GROUP 2 Golfer;Wins;Losses;Ties Justin Thomas;2;0;0 Francesco Molinari;2;0;0...
Spieth, Garcia and Thomas surge at Dell Match as Johnson, Rahm falter
Spieth, Garcia and Thomas surge at Dell Match as Johnson, Rahm falter

Jordan Spieth, the former Texas Longhorns star, cracked jokes Thursday afternoon after his second win in as many days at the WGC-Dell Match Play championship. He was both self aware and self deprecating after his easy round that ended on the 16th green when he clinched his match against China’s HaoTong Li, 4 and 2. Maybe Spieth, the fourth seed...
Golden: McIlroy back in peak form with Masters approaching
Golden: McIlroy back in peak form with Masters approaching

Match play doesn’t care where you’re ranked. It doesn’t care how many majors you have under your belt. It doesn’t even care that you outshot Tiger by seven when you were paired together at Augusta in 2015, when you finished fourth. It only cares about one thing: How you did in one round of golf on one particular day. Former...
Dell Match Play notebook: Spieth, Reed set for showdown
Dell Match Play notebook: Spieth, Reed set for showdown

The championship match at the WGC-Dell Match Play doesn’t arrive until Sunday, but the most exciting match of the tournament might happen Friday. That’s when Jordan Spieth, the local favorite, will face Patrick Reed, the Ryder Cup force, in a defacto play-in match for the Round of 16. Both Spieth and Reed won their matches Thursday, moving...
More Stories