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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Dick Tomey: A celebration of life, family and football.

Tucson Festival of Books
Richard Hastings Tomey is an American football coach and former player. Tomey has served as the head football coach at the University of Hawaii, the University of Arizona and San Jose State University. His new book is titled “Rise of the Rainbow Warriors.”

When you think of Head Coach Dick Tomey, hard-nosed defense, a stern, yet caring, attitude and winning come to mind.

Being able to sing along with all the songs from “Les Misérables” usually does not top the list.

“He knew every song,” former University of Arizona Athletic Director Cedric Dempsey said.

On May 10, Dick Tomey, who coached at Arizona from 1987 to 2000, died at 80 after months of fighting lung cancer. 

Tomey has 95 wins, the most in school history. He led the Wildcats to a 12-1 record in 1998, and the ‘Cats finished fourth in the polls, the highest they have ever placed.

These are the things that are well known about Dick Tomey. 

But when a collection of former players, coaches and longtime family friends, along with many in the Tucson community, gathered in remembrance of him at the McKale Memorial Center on Friday, May 31, another side of Tomey was shown for everyone to see.

One of those people was legendary coach Dick Vermeil, who had Tomey on his staff when he took over at UCLA in 1974. Tomey was one of the seven coaches he kept from the previous staff. Vermeil told of Tomey’s recruiting ability, including an incident while they were at UCLA where they had recruits over at Vermeil’s house.

Tomey had the defensive back recruits going over drills on Vermeil’s pool deck, “getting into it,” as he put it, and then backed right into the head coach’s swimming pool.

“He climbed right out of the pool, didn’t wipe the water off his head and got right back in front of the kids,” Vermeil said with a laugh.

Kelvin Eafon came to the UA as a basketball player, but he left as a part of the Arizona football family thanks to Tomey.

          RELATED: Dick Tomey’s legacy is reborn with Sumlin hire

“Of course, when you first meet Coach Tomey, he wanted to put you on defense,” Eafon said.

Eafon credits Tomey for his ability to bring everyone of all races and backgrounds together to become a team, along with welcoming all his players as a part of his own family.

Chuck Cecil, who played only one season for Tomey, his first in Tucson in 1987, talked about the impact that one season had on him as a player and as a competitor. Cecil said that Tomey had the ability to bring out the best in his players, making them play “better than you ever been and than you ever were.”

Another former player, Glenn Parker, didn’t speak at the service but had a lot on his mind about Tomey during Friday’s service. 

Parker talked about the first time he had met Coach Tomey, when he recruited him to come to Arizona from Golden West Junior College. Parker had met with several coaches, but Tomey stood out to him in many ways. He recalls the coach grabbing a campus map and sitting down with Parker on the floor, “like a kid.”

“Every other coach I met was standoffish, reserved and be the CEO guy, still be friendly, still be nice, but Dick had a way about him,” he said.

The two final speakers of the service were Tomey’s children, Angie and Rich. Both stressed their father’s importance, his acceptance and his belief in his children in whatever path they chose to pursue. 

“My father was a very humbled, down to earth man,” Angie Tomey said.

Rich Tomey thanked everyone for coming and for the support of the Tucson community.

“The whole week has been an inspiration,” he said. “It’s been overwhelming to see the legacy he left and the lives he touched.”

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