During his 18 seasons as the University of Minnesota football coach, Murray Warmath won a national championship, two Big Ten titles and the Gophers appeared in the Rose Bowl twice.
But his tenure as the Gophers football coach will be remembered for more than those victories.
Warmath, who was raised in Tennessee, was a catalyst for social change, both locally and nationally, because of his recruitment of black athletes at Minnesota beginning in the late 1950s. He was one of the first major college coaches to take multiple black athletes in a single recruiting class. Major Southern colleges at the time were still segregated, and many Northern colleges refused to recruit black players.
And, at a time few schools had a black quarterback, Warmath installed one of his black recruits, sophomore Sandy Stephens, as the starting quarterback on the 1959 team.
Besides Stephens, some of the athletes Warmath recruited in the late 1950s and early 1960s were Bobby Bell, Aaron Brown and Carl Eller.
Warmath was named the Gophers coach in 1954 after he had coached at Mississippi State for two years — his first head-coaching job. The Gophers were 7-2 in his first season and 6-1-2 in his third season. But late in 1959, Warmath's coaching was under scrutiny because the Gophers had compiled a 7-20-1 record the previous three seasons. The Gophers finished last in the Big Ten in 1959, winning only two games. Local businessmen made an effort to buy out the final two years of his contract and Warmath was hung in effigy outside a campus dorm.
Led by Stephens, the Gophers recovered in 1960, winning the Big Ten title with an 8-1 record and earning the national championship and their first trip to the Rose Bowl. Stephens became the first black All-America quarterback in major college football
In 1961, the Gophers were 7-2 and finished second in the Big Ten. But the Gophers were selected to go to the Rose Bowl again when Ohio State declined an invitation and the Gophers defeated UCLA 21-3 in the 1962 Rose Bowl.
The Gophers had an 8-2 record in 1967 and shared the Big Ten title with Purdue and Indiana, the last time Minnesota has had at least a share of the conference championship.
Warmath was reassigned as an assistant to the athletic director at the end of the 1971 season. He stayed in that role until he was named a Vikings assistant coach in 1978. He held that position for two seasons, then served as a regional scout. Warmath's overall record with the Gophers was 87-78-7.
"I was always proud of the whole damn works," Warmath told the Star Tribune in an interview in 2009. "I was never ashamed of what we accomplished, and I never felt our team underachieved."
Teams: Gophers, Minnesota Vikings.