Johnny Majors, 85, Winning Coach at Pittsburgh and Tennessee, Dies

by 24USATVJune 3, 2020, 8:40 p.m. 26
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Johnny Majors, a homegrown college football hero in Tennessee who coached Pittsburgh to an undefeated season and a national championship before returning to his native state to forge a successful 16-year head-coaching career at the University of Tennessee — although one that ended in bitterness — died on Wednesday at his home in Knoxville, Tenn. He was 85.

The University of Pittsburgh announced his death. No cause was given.

The even-tempered Majors was a college head coach for 29 years: five at Iowa State (1968-72), four at Pittsburgh (1973-76), 16 at Tennessee (1977-92) and four more back at Pittsburgh (1993-96). His overall record was 185-137-10.

Majors’s coaching years at Tennessee, in Knoxville, where he had been an All-America tailback, brought three Southeastern Conference championships and 12 postseason bowl trips. But just before the 1992 season, he underwent quintuple heart bypass surgery, and his offensive coordinator, Phillip Fulmer, was named interim coach while Majors recovered.

Fulmer won the first three games of the season. Majors then returned and lost three of his first five games. Some people felt Majors had returned too quickly, some felt his football philosophy was too conservative, and some felt Fulmer was maneuvering to get the job full time.

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