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Thursday, October 3, 2002
Bellotti on Casanova: 'We lost a great man'
EUGENE, Ore. -- Len Casanova, the former Oregon coach and athletic director, died late Sept. 30 following a long illness. He was 97.
Casanova coached the Ducks from 1951-1966, compiling an 82-73-8 record, second-most wins in school history.
After stepping down as coach, Casanova spent four years as athletic director, then remained an active fund-raiser and ambassador for the athletics department. The athletic center at Autzen Stadium is named after Casanova.
Many credit Casanova's success with building a foundation for Oregon's current national status.
"Everything that Oregon athletics is today, it owes to Len Casanova,'' said Bill Moos, the current athletic director. "He has been the pillar, the strength and the inspiration for our program for over 50 years.''
Said Mike Bellotti, the current coach: "We lost a great man. He definitely left his mark not just on the University of Oregon but on football in general.''
Casanova, who had an overall record of 104-97-10, began his college head coaching career in 1946 at his alma mater, Santa Clara. He led the school to a 21-13 win over Kentucky in the 1950 Orange Bowl.
He spent one year at Pittsburgh before taking over at Oregon, where he led the Ducks to three bowl games, including a 10-7 loss to No. 1-ranked Ohio State in the 1958 Rose Bowl.
At Oregon, Casanova coached two future Hall of Famers -- Mel Renfro and Dave Wilcox -- and helped assistants George Seifert, John McKay and John Robinson start their own illustrious caoching careers.
"He was a mentor to all us, a man who set an example,'' Robinson said. "And he loved us. He genuinely cared about us as players.
"He would get on our butt if we didn't go to church, and if you didn't go to school he would darn near punch you out.''
A former president of the American Football Coaches Association, Casanova was inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1977.
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