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Warren Powers, former Washington State and Missouri football coach, dies at 80

Warren Powers coaches the Washington State football team in Pullman in 1977.  (Spokesman-Review file)
By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

Former Washington State football coach Warren Powers, who led the Cougars for one season before departing Pullman early for the top job at Missouri, died Tuesday night. He was 80.

Powers had been fighting Alzheimer’s disease since 2014, according to multiple reports.

The news was first announced over Twitter by Howard Richards, a Mizzou radio analyst who played under Powers in the late 1970s.

Powers guided the Cougars to a 7-4 record (2-4 in Pac-8 play) in 1977, his first and only season on the Palouse.

He had signed a three-year contract with WSU, and had to pay the school for his contract release in order to take his dream job at Missouri, according to a Washington Post article published in December of that year. Powers paid WSU $55,000 out of his own pocket, plus 9% interest over a three-year period.

He coached the Tigers from 1978-84, compiling six winning seasons and a 3-2 record in bowl games.

He logged a 53-37-3 overall record as a head coach and was named Walter Camp Coach of the Year in 1978, when he took over a struggling Mizzou program and led it to an 8-4 mark and a Liberty Bowl title.

He also received the Associated Press’ coach of the year award for the 1983 season, in which Missouri went 7-5 and finished in a tie for second in the Big Eight Conference – the program’s best finish in the league under Powers.

A native of Kansas City, Powers played college football for Nebraska and started at safety for the Oakland Raiders when they won the 1967 AFL championship. He played in Super Bowl II in 1968 before accepting an assistant coaching gig at his alma mater a year later.

After working for the Cornhuskers for eight seasons, he landed the WSU job. He took the unranked Cougs into Lincoln, Nebraska, to open the season and knocked off No. 15 Nebraska on Sept. 10.

Powers’ predecessor at WSU, Jackie Sherrill, also coached the Cougars for just one season – a 3-8 campaign in 1976.

Powers, Sherrill and recently fired coach Nick Rolovich share a tie for the shortest tenure as WSU’s football coach at 11 games.