Johnny Majors, a legendary college football player and coach, has died, the University of Pittsburgh announced Wednesday. He was 85.
Jackie Sherrill, who worked with Majors at Pittsburgh, also confirmed the news of Majors’ passing, according to the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
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“John Majors, 1935-2020. He led us to our greatest glory and changed Pitt forever. Thank you, Coach. Rest in peace,” the Pittsburgh Panthers tweeted.
Majors was an All-American running back for the Tennessee Volunteers. He played for the school from 1953 to 1956. He lost the Heisman Trophy in 1956 to Notre Dame’s Paul Hornug.
Many people believe Majors should have won the award because Hornug’s Notre Dame team was 2-8 at the time. It’s the only time a Heisman has been awarded to a player of a team with a losing record.
Majors finished his collegiate career with two SEC MVP awards as well as an All-American selection.
He never played in the NFL. He spent one season with the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes before turning his attention to coaching.
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He got his first head coaching stint with Iowa State. He coached the Cyclones from 1968 to 1972 and recorded a 24-30-1 record. He lost both bowl-game appearances. He then took the Pittsburgh job in 1973.
From 1973 to 1976, Majors was 33-13-1 as the coach of the Panthers. He led Pittsburgh to a national championship and an undefeated in 1976. He parlayed that into a job with Tennessee.
Johnny Majors in a 1990 file photo at the Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Allsport/Getty Images)
Majors and the Vols won three SEC titles between 1977 and 1992. He was 7-4 in bowl games during that time. He finished his career at Tennessee with a 116-62-8 record before getting a second stint at Pittsburgh. He coached Pittsburgh again from 1993 to 1996 but couldn’t replicate the success he had in the 1970s.
As a coach, he was the Walter Camp Coach of the Year, the AFCA Coach of the Year, the Sporting News College Football Coach of the Year and the SEC Coach of the Year. He also coached future NFL greats Reggie White and Tony Dorsett.
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Majors was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1987.