Johnny Majors, one of college football’s greatest coaches and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, has died at age 85. His wife of 61 years, Mary Lynn, announced Majors’ death in a statement to WNML.
“It’s with a sad heart that we make this announcement,” Mary Lynn said. “John passed away this morning. He spent his last hours doing something he dearly loved: looking out over his cherished Tennessee River.”
Majors was in a rare class as an elite program-building coach at three separate teams: Iowa State, Pitt and his alma mater, Tennessee. He coached the Cyclones from 19680-72, leading the program to its first bowl game in history, a loss to LSU in the 1971 Sun Bowl.
“Johnny Majors is one of college football‘s all-time greatest coaches,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said in a statement. “Johnny came back every year and it was a pleasure for our players to get to know him and understand his legacy at Iowa State. He was one of the most important figures in Iowa State football history.”
Majors then coached the Panthers from 1973-76, winning a national title in his final season with a 12-0 record. Running back Tony Dorsett won the Heisman Trophy that season as well.
A two-time SEC Player of the Year and All-American as a halfback for Tennessee in the 1950s, Majors finished second in Heisman Trophy voting in 1956, losing to Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung.
He returned to his alma mater as its head coach in 1977, leading the Volunteers until 1992. Majors won three SEC championships and seven bowl games with Tennessee. A street was later named after him on UT’s campus: Johnny Majors Drive.
Majors was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame during his run with the Vols in 1987. Following his career at Tennessee, Majors briefly returned to coach at Pitt from 1993-96. In all, Majors ended his career with 185 wins, currently the 29th-most in the history of the sport.