Former Northwestern head coach Dennis Green — the second-ever black Division I-A head coach — passed away late Thursday night at 67 due to complications from cardiac arrest.
Best known for his work in the NFL in charge of the Vikings and Cardinals in the 1990s and 2000s, Green took the job at Northwestern in 1981, taking over a team that had gone 1-31-1 in its last 33 games. The team went 0-11 in his inaugural year at the helm, but went 3-8 in 1982, helping him earn Big Ten coach of the year honors. It was Northwestern’s first season with at least three wins since 1975. He also broke Northwestern’s NCAA-record 34-game losing streak. He left Northwestern in 1985 with an overall record of 10-45.
But his significance to the game was not based on wins and losses. Green became just the second black head coach in Division I-A football history, following Wichita State’s Willie Jeffries, who took the position in 1979. Wichita State’s football program, however, fizzled out in 1986, just three years after Jeffries left the university.
Current Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald took time this morning to honor the former Wildcats coach on Twitter.