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Former Arizona coach Dick Tomey, advisor at USF, dies at 80

The Wildcats icon spent a year overseeing Bulls football during the Willie Taggart era

Former Arizona football coach Dick Tomey, a coaching legend out West who assisted in the resuscitation of USF's program in the Willie Taggart era, passed away Friday evening at age 80.

Mr. Tomey, who compiled a 183-145-7 head coaching record in a 29-year collegiate career, had battled lung cancer.

An influential but inconspicuous presence during the 2015 season, when the Bulls won seven of their last nine games to finish 8-5, Mr. Tomey spent roughly a year as an administrative overseer of the football program.

Former Bulls athletic director Mark Harlan, who hired Mr. Tomey, was best friend’s with Mr. Tomey’s son, Rich, and served as his student manager at Arizona.

“This is so hard,” Harlan tweeted Saturday. “Not being able to call him for encouragement or to solve a problem is unimaginable, but I’m ready to march forward because of him. He will forever be a legend for so many.”

Related: Q&A: Dick Tomey

Harlan brought Mr. Tomey to USF in March 2015, in the wake of 2-10 and 4-8 seasons. He worked for a modest salary (roughly $85,000 for a year’s work) and became an advisor of sorts to Taggart.

His head coaching career spanned three schools (Hawaii, Arizona, San Jose State) but his greatest success occurred at UA.

He won 95 games in 14 years with the Wildcats, developed five future NFL first-round draftees, and molded a “Desert Swarm” defense that embarrassed Miami, 29-0, in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1, 1994. His ’98 team finished 12-1 and finished fourth in both major polls.

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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