Stunned and very surprised - he was NOT very old. He and Scott Mitchell produced some of the best Utah offense during my lifetime, and he coached some great Giant teams later in the NFL
I actually knew Jim. To me he was always great–friendly, funny, passionate. We had some highs and lows with him as our HC. I’ll always remember the highs. I was glad to see him succeed with the Giants. RIP.
Fassel’s offense was exciting, a welcome change from Chuck Stobart’s Big-10 smashmouth grind it out.
But the defense… that’s where we got demolished. I remember playing ASU in Tempe, a money game. Their FS was David Fulcher, who was a stud, 6-3/225, played in the league. Our NT was a guy named John Paton, who was about 219 lbs. I thought “this isn’t going to go well”. ASU averaged about 9 yards per rush against us. It was hideous.
I was also glad to see Fassel see success in the NFL (where he didn’t have to recruit).
Fassel opened the door for Ronnie Mac to come in, instill some toughness, start to build the Poly Pipeline, etc… which led to Meyer, which led to Whitt. Even with Meyer’s 2 year stint, we’ve really had excellent stability in FB.
It was fun to see what Fassel and Riley would innovate - the Duck, etc. But it really sucked when we led Air Force 35-0 at the half, and having that nauseating feeling they would come back and win, which they did.
I think one of Fassel’s kids is coaching in the league. My heart goes out to his family.
Sounds like it was a heart attack.
IIRC, he put the best athletes on offense. Kyle does the opposite, generally speaking. You need excellent athletes on defense–kind of an iron rule of football, I think. The offense has a plan and knows what it’s going to do, the defense must react, and be quick and athletic enough to do that.
The offensive and defensive differences are what I think of when I think of Jim Fassell as HC at Utah. Great O, hold onto your shorts bad D. Like you I’m glad that he found success in the NFL. Hard to believe that he’s dead now, 71 doesn’t seem old to me now, my parents are in that range.
My condolences to his friends and family.
I remember going to the U’s official hiring reception with my dad at the Bob Rice mansion to meet this young, energetic good looking coach who promised to energize the offense side of the game. RIP Coach Fassel.
That was the first Ute game I attended in person. Lost 45-35.
For some reason I was still hooked on the Utes after that game.
A couple of memories of Fassell. His offenses were exciting and innovative at the time. The passing game and routes were excellent. He used the tight ends well. But his defenses were bad, really bad. The 1988 squad led the nation in passing and total offense. But the '89 team was dead last in the country in total defense, setting a dubious record for most yards allowed per game of all time up to that point.
In '88, Scott Mitchell set a then-NCAA record 631 yards passing against Air Force, leading the Utes to 49 points. But Utah gave up an NCAA record 650-plus rushing yards and lost 56-49.
In '89, Utah lost to a bad CSU team at home, 50-10. Some guy named Tony Alford had 310 yards rushing. I don’t think he ever before or after had 100 yards in a game.
Fassell didn’t seem to have much interest in the defensive side of the ball.
There was the story a while back about how he and his wife gave a son up for adoption. It happened when they were young and before they were married. Years later they found each other.