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Bruins Nation mourns the passing of Pepper Rodgers

The legendary coach passed away at the age of 88

Capricorn Records Hosts Benefit Concert for Jimmy Carter - October 31, 1975 Photo by Tom Hill/WireImage

Pepper Rodgers time at UCLA was brief but it was memorable. Rodgers coached the UCLA Bruins football team from 1971-73 and was an assistant coach from 1965-66, being named Pac-8 Coach of the Year in both 1972 and 1973.

He coached the Bruins to a combined record of 17-5 in those two seasons and had a record of 17-3-1 as an assistant.

Rodgers passed away on Thursday in Reston, Virginia after a fall at his house a week ago. He was 88.

From the UCLA release:

As a player, Rodgers was a star high school quarterback in Atlanta and went on to lead Georgia Tech to a 32-2-2 record and two conference championships. He played for Coach Bobby Dodd and helped direct the Yellow Jackets to a couple of Sugar Bowl victories and a share of the 1952 National Championship. He capped his collegiate career by passing for 195 yards and three touchdowns and kicking a field goal and two extra points on his way to being named MVP of the 1954 Sugar Bowl. In 2018, he was a member of the inaugural class of the Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame.

Rodgers was selected by the Baltimore Colts in the 1954 National Football League Draft, but instead entered the U.S. Air Force, where he was a pilot for five years. After he completed his military duties, he joined the coaching ranks as an assistant at Air Force. He spent nine seasons as an assistant, two at Air Force (1958-59), five at Florida (1960-64) where he coached future Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier, and two at UCLA (1965-66) before landing his first head coaching position at Kansas in 1967. In 1968, his second season at Kansas, he led the Jayhawks to a 9-2 record, the Big Eight championship and a berth in the Orange Bowl.

Following four seasons at Kansas, Rodgers was named head coach at UCLA in 1971. After his time in Westwood, he returned to his alma mater as Georgia Tech’s head coach in 1974. Rodgers led the Yellow Jackets to four winning seasons in six years, highlighted by a Peach Bowl berth in 1978. He was a six-time coach of the year in his 13 seasons as a collegiate head coach – two-time Big Eight Coach of the Year at Kansas, two-time Pac-8 Coach of the Year at UCLA and two-time Southern Independent Coach of the Year at Georgia Tech.

Rodgers went on to coach professionally for the Memphis Showboats of the United States Football League (1984-85) and the Memphis Mad Dogs of the Canadian Football League (1995). For his last job in football, he served as vice president of football operations for the NFL’s Washington Redskins from 2001-04.

He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Janet Lake Livingston.

A life well lived and a life deserving of praise upon his passing. Bruins Nation, along with countless others mourn the death of an athletic legend and thank him for his years of service.

Rest in peace, Coach.