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Former UR football coach Frank Jones dies

Former UR football coach Frank Jones dies

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Frank Jones, who coached the University of Richmond's football program to national acclaim in the late 1960s and early 1970s , died in Richmond on Saturday. Mr. Jones was 90 and recently suffered a stroke.

Mr. Jones, a native of Tifton, Ga., and a 1948 University of North Carolina graduate, in 1966 took over a Spiders program that had lost 14 consecutive games. The Jones Era began with five more defeats. Richmond had the nation's longest losing streak.

"We were probably the worst football team in America, but he turned that program around," Buster O'Brien, a UR quarterback during 1966-68, said last night from his Virginia Beach home. "Within three years, we beat the [17th-ranked] team in the country."

That was Ohio University, which the Spiders downed 49-42 in the 1968 Tangerine Bowl, Richmond's first bowl appearance. The win is recognized as one of the greatest achievements in UR history. O'Brien threw for a school-record 447 yards, completing 39 of 58. Walker Gillette made a school-record 20 receptions for 242 yards.

"It's the biggest thing I have ever been associated with," Mr. Jones said after the game.

UR's 8-3 record that season was its best in 30 years. Those Spiders finished No. 20 in the AP poll.

Mr. Jones also was UR's athletic director during 1967-74. He was named Southern Conference coach of the year in 1967, 1968 and 1971. Mr. Jones' Spiders won Southern Conference championships in 1968 and 1971, and shared the 1969 championship. Gillette went on to a distinguished NFL career, as did Barty Smith, a Spiders running back during 1971-73.

"He touched a lot of lives, and did it in a very positive way," said O'Brien, who was with Jones in Richmond on Friday night.

Mr. Jones came from the Mississippi State staff in February of 1966 and coached the Spiders to a 44-38 mark from 1966 to 1973. But that record in no way reflects the progress Richmond football made with him in charge. His Spiders also played in the 1971 Tangerine Bowl, losing 28-3 to Toledo.

The UR Athletic Hall of Fame inducted Mr. Jones in 1989. Mr. Jones became president of Frank Jones and Company Real Estate, based in Richmond, following his departure from UR. He remained a loyal Spiders fan and was periodically asked to speak to UR football teams by Richmond's subsequent coaches.

"First of all, he was a gentleman," said Ray Tate, a former Spiders player who worked on Mr. Jones' UR staff. "Second of all, he was a darn good football coach. Football was really in trouble at the University of Richmond when he got there. He changed that."

A memorial service will be held Wednesday at 2 p.m., at the River Road Presbyterian Church.


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