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Former Gopher coach Wacker dead at 66

Posted: Tuesday August 26, 2003 2:23PM; Updated: Tuesday August 26, 2003 2:23PM
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SAN MARCOS, Texas (AP) -- Former TCU and Minnesota football coach Jim Wacker, who won back-to-back national championships in NAIA and Division II before taking his upbeat personality to Division I and broadcasting, died Tuesday following a long battle with cancer. He was 66.

Wacker won NAIA titles with Texas Lutheran in 1974-75 and NCAA Division II crown with Southwest Texas, now Texas State, in 1981-82. The '82 Bobcats went 14-0 and Wacker was named College Division Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association.

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Wacker went to TCU the following season. His first team went 1-8-2, then the Horned Frogs went 8-4 the next season and played in the Bluebonnet Bowl. He was credited with uncovering a payment plan to TCU players in 1985 that was in place before he arrived at the school.

Wacker dismissed seven players from his team and reported the violation to the NCAA. The program lost 30 scholarships and wouldn't have a winning record again until 1991, going 7-4.

He left after nine seasons with a record of 40-58-2. He then went to Minnesota from 1992-96, going 16-39 for a career record of 160-130-3.

Wacker coached at North Dakota State from 1976 to 1978, compiling a 24-9-1 record.

"His enthusiasm and his energy were contagious," said TCU athletics director Eric Hyman. "He was always very positive and upbeat. TCU people have very fond memories of him during his tenure in Fort Worth. He touched a lot of lives and lived each day to the fullest."

Wacker spent several years doing color commentary for college games on CBS radio before going back to campus, this time as athletic director at Southwest Texas in 1998.

"My heart is pumpin', and my corpuscles are jumpin', baby, I'll tell ya. I'm thrilled," Wacker said when he took the job at age 61.

He was first diagnosed with a rare form of thymus gland cancer in 2000, and retired in February 2002.

Under hospice care, Wacker was visited by dozens of friends, former players and assistant coaches over the last few weeks.

"The most important thing in coaching is, did you have an impact? Did you make a difference? And when you see [former players] who are now 40, 45 years old and are doing so well ... I'm more proud of that than anything else," he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

"You win a few and lose a few along the way, and winning is more fun than losing. But ultimately when you look back, that's not the be-all and end-all in life. And if it is, you've really got a problem."

A native of Detroit, Wacker was the son of a Lutheran minister. He is survived by his wife, Lil, three sons and six grandchildren. Mike Wacker followed his father into coaching, albeit in basketball.

Visitation was scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Pennington Funeral Home in San Marcos with funeral services to be held 11 a.m. Friday at Evans Auditorium at Texas State. Graveside services were scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Friday at San Marcos City Cemetery.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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