Sad news — Johnny Majors has passed away at the age of 85. He died early on Wednesday morning, according to his wife.
“It’s with a sad heart that we make this announcement,” said Mary Lynn Majors to WNML. “John passed away this morning. He spent his last hours doing something he dearly loved: looking out over his cherished Tennessee River.”
The Tennessee legend was both a player and a coach in Knoxville, starting his time with the Volunteers way back in 1954. He played through 1956, where he was named an All-American and finished second in the Heisman race.
His coaching career quickly began after that. He was the running backs coach at Tennessee in 1958 and 1959, before moving on to Mississippi State to coach defensive backs. He made a stop at Arkansas before landing a head coaching job at Iowa State in 1968. He then was hired by Pitt in 1973.
Majors rebuilt Pitt all the way to a 12-0 season in 1976, winning the Sugar Bowl to cap things off. That was enough to lead him back to Tennessee, where he took over the program in 1977. For the next 16 years, Majors was the man in charge in Knoxville. A bumpy start eventually led to successful seasons, including Sugar Bowl wins in 1986 and 1991. Tennessee finished twice in the top five of the national polls under Majors — 1989 and 1985.
Majors resigned at Tennessee in 1992, handing the program off to Phillip Fulmer. Majors ended up returning to Pittsburgh for four seasons. He retired following the 1996 season, ending his career with a 185-137-10 record.
In 1987, Majors was introduced into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player.