Joe Tiller, all-time winningest coach at Purdue, dies at 74
Tiller, a Boilermakers legend, was Purdue's coach for 12 seasons
Joe Tiller, the legendary Purdue coach who ushered the spread offense into the Big Ten, has died at age 74. The university's official football account confirmed Tiller's passing on Saturday morning. Tiller died in Buffalo, Wyoming, where he lived. He is survived by his wife, Arnette, his three children and four grandchildren.
"Joe took a chance coming back to Purdue, and all Boilermakers, and me in particular, are grateful," said former Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke in a statement released by the school. "Joe was the best evaluator of talent I have ever seen. His dry wit endeared him to his players, and he knew how to coach and motivate them. I know the Purdue family joins me in expressing our condolences to Arnette and all of his family."
Tiller was quoted -- and credited -- for bringing "basketball on grass" to the Big Ten. So much of what we see in spread offenses today was because of his systems and sport-wide influence. His brand of high-flying offenses worked in West Lafayette, Indiana, where he went 87-62 in 12 seasons. Tiller won eight or more games in six of those seasons.
Prior to Tiller's arrival, Purdue had played in just five bowl games and won just 54 games in the previous 15 years.
His most famous quarterback product, Drew Brees, threw for more than 11,000 yards and 90 touchdowns during three years as a starter from 1998-2000. It was during that 2000 season with Brees that the Boilermakers won a share of the Big Ten and made the Rose Bowl, where they eventually fell to Washington 34-24.
"Today is a very sad day for me and the entire Purdue family," said Brees. "Coach Tiller was an important person in my life and to so many other guys who played for him. He did so much more than teach us how to win. He taught us life lessons and how to be great leaders and men. My thoughts and prayers are with Arnette, Julie, Renee and Mike."
Tiller, a former offensive tackle who played at Montana State and for the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL, also coached at Wyoming from 1991-96 with a record of 39-30. His coaching tree includes Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin.
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