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Ex-Arizona coach Dick Tomey, 80, dies of cancer

Dick Tomey, the winningest football coach at the University of Arizona, has died at age 80 from cancer, his family announced Saturday.

Tomey compiled a 95-64-4 record in 14 seasons with the Wildcats from 1987 to 2000. Arizona appeared in seven bowl games under Tomey, winning four.

His Wildcats finished in the Associated Press Top 25 poll four times, including a No. 10 ranking in 1993 and a No. 4 ranking in 1998.

“Dick Tomey was never petty, never small minded,” his family said in a statement. “He was a man who discovered his mission in life, embraced it, enjoyed it, and accomplished amazing things. When speaking of football, he often said, ‘Football is not complicated. People are.’ He was always, first and foremost, a people person.

“On the football field he was a tough as nails coach, who loved fierce competition and the thrill of team-building. He loved his players, every single one of them — always. He was hard on them. He constantly raised the bar. He could do that because he knew how to find the goodness and the talent in people.”

His “Desert Swarm” defenses were led by Tedy Bruschi and Rob Waldrop, members of the College Football Hall of Fame.

“He cared deeply about the lives and successes of everyone involved in our program, both past and present,” current Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said in a statement. “Coach never stopped doing his part to help a fellow Wildcat. … Our entire program is saddened by this loss, but we are also grateful to have been impacted by Coach Tomey. We will continue to do our part to represent his legacy well.”

Born in Indiana, Tomey graduated from DePauw University and got his first varsity job coaching defensive backs at Davidson in 1985 after stints coaching freshmen teams at Miami of Ohio and Northern Illinois.

Tomey spent four seasons at Kansas before following Pepper Rodgers to UCLA. He was the Bruins defensive coordinator in 1976. One season later, he got his first head coaching job at Hawaii, where his teams were 63-46-3 over 10 seasons.

Following his time at Arizona, Tomey guided San Jose State for five seasons, compiling a 25-35 record with one bowl win.

Overall, in his 29 seasons as coach, he had a record of 183-145-7.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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