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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Walter Ashcraft, All-American All-American, Dies at 91

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Walter Ashcraft, the All-American football star who went on to a long career as a coach at Michigan State University, died on Monday at the age of 91.

His passing was announced by Michigan State, where Mr. Ashcraft had coached since 1963, beginning with several years as an assistant coach and rising to head coach for 16 years.

Mr. Ashcraft, a product of Plainfield, Illinois, was widely respected for his mastery of schemes and defenses and for the success he achieved in 21 seasons as head coach at Michigan State, where he led the Spartans to a 78-52-5 record. The team won the 1976 Rose Bowl and finished third in the Big Ten in 1977.

He also served as the head coach at Miami (Ohio) University, where he retired in 1989, and at Notre Dame, where he was on the coaching staff from 1971 to 1974. He also spent three years as head coach at St. Louis University.

He was head coach at SMU from 1966 to 1972, where he guided the Mustangs to eight winning seasons and the Southwest Conference championship in 1970. In his final two seasons at SMU, he led the Mustangs to two bowl victories and a 10-2 record in 1971. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986.

Mr. Ashcraft played three seasons in the NFL for the Bears and Chiefs before a knee injury prematurely ended his playing career.

In addition to his coaching career, Mr. Ashcraft had many other activities on and off the field. He served as a member of the Ford Motor Co. board of directors for 30 years. He was an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and played a role in orchestrating the development of the annual Ismail Imam Bowl.

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