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UR's coach 50 years ago: 'Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated.' He was dead serious.

UR's coach 50 years ago: 'Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated.' He was dead serious.

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The University of Richmond plays its final football game of 2021 Saturday at William & Mary, and before the Spiders are done, here’s a reminder of what their coach said 50 years ago: “Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated.”

Frank Jones was dead serious.

Jones, UR’s coach from 1966-73, was leading the Spiders at Southern Mississippi on Oct. 30, 1971, when late in the first quarter Richmond quarterback Ken Nichols rolled right and threw a pass. Like most folks observing the game, Jones’ eyes followed the ball. As they did, he was hit by Southern Miss end David Johnson, who was tackling Nichols.

Very few folks saw what happened to Jones. He went down, knocked unconscious. A stretcher took him to an ambulance, which hurried to Forrest General Hospital in Hattiiesburg, Miss.

The Associated Press reported, “Jones at first was thought to have suffered a heart attack. He was taken to the coronary section at the hospital.”

The same night, TCU coach Jim Pittman died of a heart attack on the sideline night in Waco, Texas, where TCU was playing Baylor. There were reports in the confusion that Jones was the coach who suffered a heart attack and died.

Former UR athletic drector Chuck Boone was the school’s athletics promotions manager at the time and with the Spiders on the trip to Southern Miss. He went to the hospital with Jones, and Boone said he spent two hours on the phone answering calls about Jones’ condition from Richmond supporters who heard that the Spiders coach died.

The Times-Dispatch later reported that Johnson’s helmet struck Jones in the chest, and during the fall, Jones’ head hit the ground hard.

When Jones regained consciousness, he complained of chest pain. So he was taken to the hospital’s coronary unit. The PA announcer at the game told the crowd that Jones had suffered a heart attack.

Jones was back in Richmond a couple of days after the incident and coached the Spiders against The Citadel the Saturday after UR fell 31-24 at Southern Mississippi.

Jones died at 90, in 2009.

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