Dick Tomey, the architect of Arizona’s famed “Desert Swarm” defense and had a major impact on the 2004 season at Texas, passed away Friday after battling cancer, Arizona officials announced. He was 80.
Tomey is well known in Arizona after spending 14 seasons with the Wildcats and going 95-64-4 and guiding the program to nine winning seasons from 1987-2000. He was the winningest coach in school history. The school had announced in January that Tomey was undergoing treatment for a cancer diagnosis.
Arizona’s tenacious defense landed the Wildcats on the cover of the 1994 Sports Illustrated college football preview edition and was widely considered one of the nation’s best. Tomey, who once called his defense “frighteningly simple,” was based on lining up the same way each play, no matter the offensive alignment.
“Our entire program is saddened by this loss, but we are also grateful to have been impacted by coach Tomey,” Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said in a statement. “We will continue to do our part to represent his legacy well.”
Tomey, long known as a firebrand, joined UT coach Mack Brown’s staff in 2004 in charge of defensive ends along with co-defensive coordinator Greg Robinson. They convinced Brown to start holding Sunday practices, mostly to shake off any cobwebs from Saturday’s game, and then take Mondays off.
Granted, it was only one season, but it was transformational. Tomey helped overhaul UT’s strength and conditioning program and energized the Horns with new ideas for player development. A stronger, more aggressive defense finished 23rd nationally in total defense and 18th in scoring defense.
Quarterback Vince Young led Texas to an 11-1 record and a win over Michigan in the 2005 Rose Bowl. The next season, Texas would go on to win the national championship.
Tomey left the Longhorns after just one season to become the head coach at San Jose State. Tomey had told Brown that he wanted to end his career as a head coach and not an assistant.
Tomey went 25-35 in five seasons at San Jose and finished his FBS coaching career with a 183-145-7 record. He had also been Hawaii’s head coach from 1977-86 and returned there in 2011 to serve as a special teams coach under then-Hawaii coach Greg McMackin.
Tomey was born in Bloomington, Ind., in 1938 and played college football at DePauw. He is a member of the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame and Pima County Sports Hall of Fame. Tomey is survived by his wife, Nanci Kincaid, two children and nine children and step-grandchildren.
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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