Jim Fassel, who coached football at the pro and collegiate levels for more than 35 years, died Monday at the age of 71, the Los Angeles Times first reported.
Fassel, who was head coach at the University of Utah in the late 1980s and lived in Las Vegas, experienced chest pains Monday and was taken to the hospital, the Times reported. He died of a heart attack while under sedation, Fassel’s son, John, told the Times.
Jim Fassel’s connection to Utah
Fassel coached the Utes from 1985 to 1989, where he went 25-33 in five seasons. That included an 8-4 year his first season when Utah won its first five games and finished third in the WAC standings.
He also guided the Utes to a 57-28 victory over rival BYU in 1988, snapping the Cougars’ nine-game win streak in the series at the time.
“We express our deepest sympathies to the family of Jim Fassel,” Utah athletic director Mark Harlan said in a statement. “Coach Fassel played a significant role in the proud history of the Utah Football program, and mentored some of the program’s most prolific offensive performers. His legacy will always be remembered here at Utah.”
Fassel, a native of Anaheim, California, who coached future Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway at Stanford in the early 1980s, also served as the Utes’ quarterbacks and receivers coach in 1976 and Weber State’s offensive coordinator from 1977-78.
“Jim Fassel was a staple in the football community,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement. “We are privileged to have him as part of our Utah Football family and are saddened to learn of his passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time.”
Weber State mourns the passing of Jim Fassel.— Weber State Football (@weberstatefb) June 8, 2021
Jim was the offensive coordinator at Weber State from 1977-78. He later was the head coach at Utah and the New York Giants.
His son John also played football at Weber State.
Our thoughts are with his family at this time. pic.twitter.com/4YDiwAPayp
Fassel’s pro coaching history
Fassel spent more than two decades at the pro level, most notably as head coach of the New York Giants from 1997-2003. He led the team to the Super Bowl in his fourth season as coach, where the Giants lost to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV.
Fassel went 58-53-1 as New York’s coach, leading the Giants to the playoffs in three of his seven seasons and winning the NFL’s Coach of the Year award in his first year in 1997.
“On behalf of the Mara and Tisch families and our entire organization, I would like to express our condolences to the Fassel family and Jim’s friends,” Giants president and chief executive officer John Mara said in a statement. “We were all saddened to hear of Jim’s passing. Jim was a good man and his record as our coach speaks for itself.
“Jim distinguished himself by the way he managed our team and devoted his efforts to the fire fighters and other families following the tragedy of 9-11. The players respected Jim and enjoyed playing for him and his coaching staff. And we appreciated his seven years of leading our team.”
Fassel started his pro coaching career with the Giants as the team’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 1991-92, and followed that up with offensive assistant positions with the Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals before becoming the Giants’ head coach.
Following his time as Giants coach, he was the Ravens’ offensive coordinator for two seasons after a year as a senior offensive consultant.
Fassel’s final head coaching job was with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League, where he led the team to two championships before the league folded during its fourth season.
He coached in four different professional leagues, including the World Football League, United States Football League, NFL and UFL.
What people are saying about Fassel
Many who knew Fassel shared their thoughts following his death.
Devastated to hear about the passing of Coach Fassel. He gave me a chance to play & believed in me when no one else did. Our team had so much fun winning the championship in Las Vegas. I’ll forever be thankful to have known him & for the opportunities he gave me & my family. pic.twitter.com/AFhCuAJPcY— Graham Gano (@GrahamGano) June 8, 2021
Statement from Head Coach John Harbaugh: pic.twitter.com/MtZuZ6n4Ed— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) June 8, 2021
Michael Bidwill on the passing of Jim Fassel: pic.twitter.com/RIxO7nRbJS— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) June 8, 2021
Lions coach Dan Campbell says some of the best years he ever had was playing for the late Jim Fassel for the NY Giants. “The people that he surrounded himself with from coaches to players was one of the best experiences I ever had were those years,” he said.— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) June 8, 2021
I started covering the #Giants in 2004, just as Jim Fassel was giving way to Tom Coughlin, but I did have a few chances to interact with him over the years. Always a pleasure to speak to him. RIP to a really good head coach. https://t.co/uUI84Ws22d— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) June 8, 2021