The coach most recognized as the patriarch of Cal State Fullerton Football has died. Gene Murphy, born August 6, 1939, passed away this morning in Los Angeles at USC University Hospital. Murphy was 72.
Murphy had undergone surgery on Tuesday to treat esophageal cancer and was recovering normally. Unfortunately complications from the surgery had caused Murphy’s heart to stop twice on Friday. Twice doctors and medical staff were able to successfully resuscitate Murphy however they were unsuccessful the third time his heart stopped. Despite the fact that the Cal State Fullerton Football program has been on hiatus since 1992, Murphy’s influence was still prevalent to the day he died.
It’s debatable whether Murphy’s impact was greater on the players he coached or the impressive legacy of coaches whom he hired and mentored. For a man coaching at what would be considered a “small school”, Murphy produced some big time players and coaches.
Three of the most notable players that Murphy recruited and coached were Damon Allen, Mike Pringle and Allen Pitts. Allen won four Grey Cups in the Canadian Football League and was once professional football’s all-time passing yardage leader. Pringle holds the CFL record for rushing, was twice voted the CFL Most Outstanding Player and was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Pitts played for Murphy and went on to tremendous success in Canada retiring as the CFL’s all-time leading receiver in term of career yardage until he was passed by Milt Stegall in 2008. Pitts was elected into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and was enshrined on the Stampeders Wall of Fame in 2005, with the retirement of his jersey number 18.
One other notable player that went to have tremendous success after being coached by Murphy was defensive back, Mark Collins. Collins was drafted 44th overall by the New York Giants and went on to win two Super Bowls (Super Bowls XXI and XXV) while playing for the team that drafted him. Collins also played for the Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks and finished his career with 27 interceptions, eight sacks and scored two touchdowns as defensive back.
Murphy’s impression does not end with the mentoring of players but his greatest legacy may come in the form of his “coaching tree”. Numerous professional and major college football coaches can trace their roots back to Cal State Fullerton after ultimately being hired by Gene Murphy. Murphy had an eye for coaching talent and was not afraid to take risks in hiring unproven and green coaches. A number of Murphy’s hires eventually went on to head coaching positions in the NFL.
Current Oakland Raiders Head Coach, Hue Jackson, was an assistant coach under Gene Muprhy in 1990 and 1991 serving as running backs coach and special teams coach. Jackson went on to coach in the NFL as an offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons and the Oakland Raiders before ascending to the head coaching position in which he now holds.
Jackson replaced another Murphy protege in Tom Cable. Cable was the head coach of the Oakland Raiders from 2008 to 2010 but started his coaching career at Cal State Fullerton under Gene Murphy in 1990. A third NFL head coach who cut his teeth as a young coach under Gene Murphy was Steve Mariucci. Mariucci was one of Muprhy’s first hires after taking over the Cal State Fullerton program in 1980. Mariucci went on to be the head coach at California-Berkley and was the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and the Detroit Lions.
The Murphy coaching tree not only extends into the professional ranks but also into major college football. Current head coach of Army Rich Ellerson, Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, Northwestern defensive coordinator Jerry Brown and Oregon State defensive coordinator Greg Newhouse all called Gene Murphy “boss” at one time in their coaching career.
Murphy is survived by a 15-year-old daughter, Aileen, and her mother, Christine McCarthy, as well as two adult sons, Tim and Mike and four grandchildren. Services are pending and most likely are more than a week away.