Former UCLA football coach Pepper Rodgers died Thursday after he was reportedly hospitalized last week for injuries from a fall at his home in Reston, Virginia. He was 88.
A statement about his death from his alma mater, Georgia Tech, was not a cause of death.
Rodgers coached the Bruins for three seasons from 1971-1973. After a 2-7-1 record in his first season, he turned around for winning seasons of 8-3 and 9-2 his last two years. He was named the Pac-8 Coach of the year after the 1972 and 1973 seasons.
Under head coach Tommy Prothro, Rodgers was also an assistant coach to the Bruins during the 1965 and 1966 seasons. Before that, he held assistant coaching positions with the Air Force (from 1958-1959) and Florida (1960 to 1964). His first role as head coach came for Kansas in 1967, where he led the Jayhawks to a Big Eight Championship during his second season.
He followed his time at UCLA by returning to Georgia Tech to coach his alma mater. In his six seasons with the Yellow Jackets, he led the team to four winning seasons and was named Southern Independent Coach of the Year twice.
“I’m devastated to learn that Pepper Rodgers has passed away,” said Todd Stansbury, Georgia Tech Athletics Director. “He was a Georgia Tech legend, won a national championship as an outstanding player and put together four winning seasons in six years as a head coach.
“Personally, he was the coach who recruited me from Georgia Tech and I am eternally grateful that he brought me here. If Pepper had not been there, I would never have had the opportunity to fulfill my dreams as a tech student, football player, alumnus and now athletics director. He has also been a mentor and friend throughout my professional career and I will miss him greatly. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Livingston, his family and his many, many friends. We lost a great tech guy. ‘
Rodgers had two professional coaching roles, first in the United States Football League with the Memphis Showboats (from 1984 to 1985) and with the Memphis Mad Dogs of the Canadian Football League in 1995.
He was vice president of football operations for the Washington Redskins from 2001-2004.
As a quarterback for Georgia Tech in the 1950s, Rodgers led the Yellow Jackets to two conference championships, two Sugar Bowl wins, and part of the 1952 National Championship with the state of Michigan. He was named MVP of the 1954 Sugar Bowl and inducted into the Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame in 2018.
After his collegiate football career came to an end, he spent five years as a pilot in the United States Air Force.
Rodgers is survived by his wife, Livingston, his daughters, Terri and Kelly, and his sons, Rick and Kyle.