Darryl Rogers, former coach for Arizona State and Detroit Lions, dies at age 83

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Darryl Rogers, who died Wednesday at age 83, was one of Arizona State’s most successful football coaches in the post-Frank Kush era.

Rogers had four winning teams in five seasons (1980-84) at ASU and an overall record of 37-18-1. His 1981 and ’82 teams were a combined 19-4 with each just missing out on becoming ASU’s first Rose Bowl qualifier. The 1982 team beat Oklahoma 32-21 in the Fiesta Bowl and finished No. 6 in the final Associated Press rankings.

“People forget what a really good staff he put together,” said Jeff Van Raaphorst, ASU starting quarterback from 1984-86. “He let his coaches coach and didn’t micro manage. He was almost more of a pro coach than a college coach, very similar to what coach (Herm) Edwards is trying to do – get the right people, turn them loose and develop them.”

Rogers’ staff included elite recruiters Willie Shaw and Al Luginbill and Mike Martz, who went on to become an NFL head coach. Luginbill now is back with ASU as director of player personnel.

“I think he had a way with people,” Luginbill said. “He delegated responsibility and expected you to get it done. He wasn’t one of those that demanded you be there until midnight. It was get the work done, get it done right and away we go.

“I always felt when he left there, there was not enough credit given to him in relationship to the amount of talent that had been accumulated during his time. He was somebody never mentioned in that realm, it was always before him or after him. He did a lot to create a really solid Arizona State football program during the ’80s.”

ASU was one of the nation’s top offensive teams in 1981 with quarterback Mike Pagel and running back Gerald Riggs then won largely on defense in ’82. 

“Those young men (in 1982) on that defensive group really rose to the occasion,” Luginbill said. “We did it a different way in those two years and still won.”

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Rogers left ASU when he was not given a multi-year contract to become Detroit Lions head coach. He was Michigan State head coach (1976-79) before coming to ASU.

John Cooper replaced Rogers at ASU and was given a multi-year contract by the Arizona Board of Regents. Cooper coached the Sun Devils to the Pac-10 title in 1986 and a Rose Bowl win over Michigan when many of his core players were Rogers’ recruits.

“If ASU had given him what they gave John Cooper, we would have been in the Rose Bowl two more times,” Van Raaphorst said. “The recruiting class we had coming in before he left for Detroit would have been by far our best. So many that were committed to us flipped to USC and everywhere else (after Rogers left).”

Rogers was inducted into the ASU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.

All-American players during the Rogers’ coaching era included safety Mike Richardson, linebacker Vernon Maxwell, safety David Fulcher and kicker Luis Zendejas.

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Rogers died in Fresno, Calif., where he played in college at Fresno State and later coached (1966-72 as head coach). He coached at San Jose State (1973-75) before Michigan State and ASU. After the Detroit Lions (1985-88), he coached one season in the Canadian Football League then was athletic director at Southern Connecticut before retiring.

Rogers’ overall college coaching record was 129-84-7 and his NFL record was 18-40. He has been a nominee for the College Football Hall of Fame.

“He was supportive, demanded a lot and was just a good person,” Van Raaphorst said. “He was funny and did a good job staying unflappable (on the sideline). You never saw any stress in him.”

During a 1984 game against Florida State, Van Raaphorst passed for a then-school record 532 yards in a 52-44 loss. “I was lighting them up like a pinball, and we’re still down,” Van Raaphorst said. “He just said we need another one. You never saw any division, with him it was all about team.”

Rogers hired Don Bocchi on his staff just days before resigning to join the Lions. Bocchi still is at ASU, now as senior associate athletic director.

“I’m forever grateful for him hiring me,” Bocchi said. “I coached against his 1982 team, and it was one of the finest defensive teams I’ve ever seen. They had an air about them that was pretty special.

“Darryl was an incredible recruiter and a gentle man. He didn’t ruffle easily. He was good for young people and good for the game.”

Rogers is survived by his wife, Marsha, and daughters Stacy and Jamie.

ASU is hosting Michigan State in football on Sept. 8 when both schools can pay tribute to their late head coach.

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