(Courtesy of Kansas Athletics)
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Pepper Rodgers, who was the head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks from 1967-70 passed away on Thursday, May 14, in Reston, Va. He was 88.
Rodgers joined the Jayhawks in 1967, where he led Kansas to a 5-5 record including a 5-2 record in the Big Eight, to tie for second in the conference. In his second year at the helm in 1968, he led KU to a 9-2 overall record and a share of the Big Eight Conference title. In the same season, he led KU to its second Orange Bowl appearance, where they fell to the No. 3 Penn State Nittany Lions, 14-15, finishing the season with a No. 6 national ranking.
In his four seasons as the head coach at Kansas, Rodgers led the Jayhawks to a 20-22 overall record, while being named Big Eight Coach of the Year twice.
From Atlanta, Georgia, Rodgers played college football at Georgia Tech under head coach Bobby Dodd, where he was a member of the Yellow Jackets’ 1952 National Championship team. As a quarterback and place-kicker, Rodgers threw for a touchdown and kicked a field goal and three extra points in Georgia Tech’s 24-7 win over Ole Miss in the 1953 Sugar Bowl, and passed for 195 yards and three touchdowns and added a field goal and two extra points, being named the MVP of the 1954 Sugar Bowl.
In 2018, Rodgers was inducted as a member of the inaugural AllState Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame.
Prior to Kansas, Rodgers served as an assistant coach at Air Force (1958-59), Florida (1960-64) and UCLA (1965-66).
Following his four seasons in Lawrence, Rodgers returned to UCLA from 1971-73, before returning to his Alma Mater, Georgia Tech, from 1974-79. In his 13 years of college coaching experience, he coached his teams to a 73-65-3 overall record, while making appearances in the 1968 Orange Bowl (Kansas) and 1978 Peach Bowl (Georgia Tech).
Rodgers went on to coach the Memphis Steamboats of the United States Football League from 1984-85 and the Memphis Mad Dogs of the Canadian Football League in 1995. Rodgers later served as the vice president of football operations for the NFL’s Washington Redskins from 2001-04.
Rodgers was drafted in the 12th round of the 1954 NFL draft by the Baltimore Colts, but instead entered the Air Force where he spent five years as a pilot.
He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Janet Lake Livingston.