Former Gopher coach Jim Wacker dies of cancer

Former TCU and Minnesota football coach Jim Wacker, who won back-to-back national championships in NAIA and Division II before taking his upbeat personality to Division I and broadcasting, died today following a long battle with cancer. He was 66.

Jim Wacker won NAIA titles with Texas Lutheran in 1974-75 and NCAA Division II crown with Southwest Texas, now Texas State, in 1981-82. The '82 Bobcats went 14-0 and Wacker was named College Division Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association.

"We lost a true Golden Gopher today," Director of Athletics Joel Maturi said. "There aren't too many people who approached life with the same vitality and enthusiasm as Coach Wacker. Jim had a great energy about him and he always made you feel important. He had a great passion for life, the sport, the kids he coached and for the University as a whole."

"It is a sad day for the University of Minnesota, the state of Minnesota and college athletics with the passing of Coach Jim Wacker," Head Coach Glen Mason said. "Coach Wacker represented all the good in athletics – honesty, integrity, and a deep caring for the student-athletes. Our prayers and thoughts are with his family whom he loved so much."

"Jim was a great human being and a great guy to work for," assistant football coach Gordon Shaw said. "He loved Minnesota and poured his heart and soul into the University. He will be deeply missed."

Wacker went to TCU the following season, leading his first team to an 8-3 record and a Bluebonnet Bowl berth. He was credited with uncovering a payment plan to TCU players in 1985 that was in place before he arrived at the school.

Wacker dismissed seven players from his team and reported the violation to the NCAA. The program lost 30 scholarships and wouldn't have a winning record again until 1991, going 7-4.

He left after nine seasons with a record of 40-58-2. He then went to Minnesota from 1992-96, going 16-39 for a career record of 160-130-3.

Known for his infectious enthusiasm, he spent several years doing color commentary for college games on CBS radio before going back to campus, this time as athletic director at Southwest Texas in 1998. He was heard on weekends at a guest radio analyst talking college football for Sporting News Radio network.

He was first diagnosed with a rare form of thymus gland cancer in 2000, and retired in February 2002.

Wacker was visited by dozens of friends, former players and assistant coaches over the last few weeks, while under hospice care.

A native of Detroit, Wacker was the son of a Lutheran minister. He is survived by his wife, Lil, three sons and six grandchildren. Mike Wacker followed his father into coaching, albeit in basketball.

Visitation was scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Pennington Funeral Home in San Marcos with funeral services to be held 11 a.m. Friday at Evans Auditorium at Texas State. Graveside services were scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Friday at San Marcos City Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Bobcat Athletic Foundation/Geography Endowment; Texas Lutheran University football; Texas Christian University football; the American Cancer Society; Lutheran Social Services; or the Hope Hospice of New Braunfels.

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