Former UNLV football coach Ron Meyer dies at 76

Updated December 5, 2017 - 9:15 pm

Ron Meyer, whose UNLV football teams compiled a 27-8 record in his three seasons as coach during the 1970s, died Tuesday. He was 76.

The Rebels’ .771 winning percentage under Meyer ranks as the best in the program’s history. UNLV went 8-3 in 1973 and followed that with seasons of 12-1 and 7-4. The Rebels finished 11-0 that second season and were ranked No. 2 among small colleges by both AP and UPI, before losing to Delaware in the NCAA Division II semifinals.

UNLV was Meyer’s first job as a head coach; he was subsequently hired by Southern Methodist University. Meyer later landed in the NFL as coach of the New England Patriots (1982-84) and Indianapolis Colts (1986-91).

Meyer’s success in Las Vegas led to his hiring and a controversial six-season run at SMU, where he turned the Mustangs into a power by landing a backfield of Eric Dickerson and Craig James that came to be known as “The Pony Express.”

“Devastated to hear the passing of my coach and great friend Ron Meyer,” Dickerson posted to Twitter on Tuesday. “My mom and I loved Coach Meyer. He was a great man. Coach and his family are in my thoughts and prayers. God bless Coach Meyer!”

Meyer became coach of the Patriots in 1982 and was named AFC Coach of the Year for taking New England to the playoffs in the strike-shortened season. In a game against the Dolphins that season, Meyer famously instructed a stadium worker to drive a snowplow on to the field to clear a spot for the holder on a field goal attempt.

He was fired after a 5-3 start in 1984 and accepted the coaching position in Indianapolis late in 1986 after the Colts started 0-13.

Meyer led the Colts to three straight wins to end the year, then captured the AFC Coach of the Year award again the next season by leading Indianapolis to a division title after he helped orchestrate a blockbuster trade that brought Dickerson to Indianapolis.

Indianapolis didn’t make the playoffs in the next three years and Meyer’s tenure was over when the Colts started 0-5 in 1991.

He had an overall record of 54-50 in the NFL and was 0-2 in the postseason.

Meyer was born in Columbus, Ohio, on Feb. 17, 1941. He was a quarterback and defensive back for two years at Purdue, before turning to a coaching career.

He started at Penn High School in Indiana before receiving a job as an assistant at Purdue. He spent six seasons at his alma mater before working two seasons as a scout for the Dallas Cowboys. He was then hired as the second coach in UNLV history, beginning a college career in which his teams were 61-40-1.

Meyer returned to the Sam Boyd Stadium sidelines in 1994 to coach the Canadian Football League’s Las Vegas Posse franchise during its brief existence after spending several years as a pro football analyst for CNN.

He also served a stint coaching in the short-lived XFL.

Meyer, who coached UNLV’s first All-American in Hall of Fame running back Mike Thomas, finished with a 23-2 home record earned at what was known then as Las Vegas Stadium.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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