Dick Tomey, trail-blazing football coach at the University of Hawaii, dies at 80

Football coach Dick Tomey, one of the University of Hawaii’s most beloved athletic figures, died Friday night at the age of 80, according to his family in Tucson, Ariz.

Tomey was diagnosed with lung cancer in December. He died Friday night surrounded by his family in Arizona.


“As a family, we rarely talk about how many games Dick Tomey won — we talk about how many hearts he won… including all of ours,” Tomey’s family said in a statement.

Tomey went 63-46-3 in 10 seasons at UH (1977-86) during which he resuscitated a languishing football program and led the Rainbow Warriors into the Western Athletic Conference while playing before large crowds at Aloha Stadium.

Under Tomey’s guidance, the ‘Bows drew their first sellout crowd at the 50,000-seat stadium in 1978 losing to eventual national champion USC, 21-5, after trailing, 7-3, into the fourth quarter. Gritty defense and solid special teams play were hallmarks of his tenure at UH.

A native of Indiana, Tomey came to UH from UCLA where he had been an assistant coach to take over an independent Rainbow team that had gone 3-8 and was in turmoil with large numbers of players departing.

He went 5-6 in his inaugural season and then reeled off five consecutive winning seasons including a 9-2 finish in 1981 during which UH climbed as high as No. 19 in the Associated Press poll.

Tomey left after the 1986 season as UH’s all-time winningest coach (later surpassed by June Jones) to take over Arizona, where he coached for 14 years. Tomey also became the Wildcats’ winningest coach (95-64-4).

He later spent five seasons at San Jose State going 25-35 and served as an assistant coach with the San Francisco 49ers (2003) and University of Texas (2004). His final coaching job was a one-year stint as UH’s special teams coach in 2011.

The Tomey family said a memorial service is envisioned for July in Hawaii, though no date as yet been set.


In lieu of flowers, the family said the Dick Tomey Legacy Fund has been established through the nonprofit organization Positive Coaching Alliance. According to the organization, “100% of these funds will go directly to providing scholarships and programming for underserved youth in the markets where Dick spent the majority of his years in the community as the head football coach.”

If you are interested in donating to the Dick Tomey Legacy Fund, visit positivecoach.org/TomeyFund to designate the Hawaii, Arizona, or Bay Area chapter as the beneficiary.

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