Sam Wyche, former Furman, NFL player and coach, dies

Published on Friday, January 3, 2020

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Sam Wyche died Thursday, He played at Furman, in the NFL and coached in the NFL and college. He was volunteer coach at Pickens High School.

Sam Wyche died Thursday, He played at Furman, in the NFL and coached in the NFL and college. He was volunteer coach at Pickens High School.


Staff, digital, wire reports

Sam Wyche, former Cincinnati Bengals head football coach and resident of Pickens County, died Thursday morning of melanoma. He was 74.

Wyche went into hospice on Dec. 30. He would have been 75 on Sunday. Funeral arrangements were unavailable Thursday night.

Wyche was in the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame and the Furman University Athletic Hall of Fame. He was a graduate of Furman University and played coached in the National Football League.

Wyche coached the Bengals to its only Super Bowl XXIII. He was head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, overall 12 years as an NFL head coach. He also played in Super Bowl VII for the Washington Redskins.

He was a volunteer quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for Pickens High School. Wyche also served on the Pickens County Council.

Wyche and former San Francisco Giants Alvin Dark, who also resided in Pickens County, were often spectators at Greenville Drive games before Dark’s death in 2014.

Cincinnati Bengals President Mike Brown issued this statement:

"Sam was a wonderful guy. We got to know him as both a player and a coach. As our coach, he had great success and took us to the Super Bowl. He was friends with everyone here, both during his tenure as head coach and afterwards. We not only liked him, we admired him as a man. He had a great generosity of spirit and lived his life trying to help others. We express our condolences to Jane (wife) and his children, Zak and Kerry."

Wyche had six grandchildren.

Wyche pioneered the no-huddle offense in the NFL. He was known as a football innovator, a fiery coach who often displayed a sense of humor. He was an accomplished magician and often performed his magic tricks with his teams.

Wyche had a heart transplant in September 2016 after living with cardiomyopathy for 15 years.

Wyche was hired in 1983 to take over for Lee Corso at Indiana University, after the Hoosiers went 8-14 in Corso's final two seasons. IU was 3-8 record in Wyche’s year as head coach. He joined the Bengals after that season.

He was reported to be a nonconformist in the NFL and refused to comply with the NFL’s locker room policy for media, ran up the score to settle a personal grudge, and belittled the city of rival Cleveland during his eight seasons in Cincinnati.

• During a game against San Francisco in 1987, Wyche chose to try to run out the clock on fourth down rather than punt or take a safety - the safe choices. When the play failed, Joe Montana got a chance to throw a winning touchdown pass to Jerry Rice, an ending that’s still remembered among the league’s most improbable finishes, reported Sports Illustrated on line.

• With Boomer Esiason as the quarterback, Wyche developed what he called a “sugar huddle” that had his team group near the line after a substitution. If the defense tried to match the substitution, Wyche would have the offense snap the ball and catch it with too many players on the field. The NFL eventually adopted a rule allowing defenses to match an offense’s substitution before the ball is snapped, SI.com reported.

• Wyche loved to push the envelope on offense and loved to go against standard wisdom. A Steelers assistant coach dubbed him “Wicky Wacky” for his go-against-the-grain mentality.

• Wyche developed a history of fines and feuds. He defied league policy by barring reporters from the locker room following a last-minute loss to Seattle in 1989 and clamped a gag order on his players, resulting in a $3,000 fine from the league. A year later, he defied then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue and barred a female reporter from the locker room. He was unrepentant despite a $27,941 fine, according to SI.com. 

• Wyche also feuded with Houston Oilers coach Jerry Glanville, whom he called a phony. He had the Bengals make an onside kick when they led Glanville’s team by 45 points, and Wyche waved derisively at Glanville as he ran off the field following a 61-7 win near the end of the 1989 season.

• Wyche’s career ended with more controversy after the 1991 season – owner Mike Brown announced that Wyche had quit during their end-of-the-season meeting, but Wyche insisted he was fired with two years left on his contract.

The Buccaneers hired him for the 1992 season and finished 5-11. Tampa Bay went 23-41 in his four seasons.









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