Bill Arnsparger

Bill Arnsparger
Sport(s) Football
Biographical details
Born (1926-12-16)December 16, 1926
Paris, Kentucky
Died July 17, 2015(2015-07-17) (aged 88)
Athens, Alabama
Alma mater Miami University
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1950 Miami (OH) (DL)
1951–1953 Ohio State (DL)
1954–1961 Kentucky (DL)
1962–1963 Tulane (DL)
1964–1969 Baltimore Colts (DL)
1970–1972 Miami Dolphins (DC/LB)
1973 Miami Dolphins (AHC/DC)
1974–1976 New York Giants
1976–1983 Miami Dolphins (AHC/DC)
1984–1986 LSU
1992–1994 San Diego Chargers (DC)
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
1986–1992 Florida
Head coaching record
Overall 7–28 (NFL)
26–8–2 (college)

William Stephen Arnsparger (December 16, 1926 – July 17, 2015) was an American college and professional football coach. He was born and raised in Paris, Kentucky, served in the United States Marine Corps during World War II, and graduated from Miami University (Ohio) in 1950. Immediately upon graduation, Arnsparger was hired as an assistant football coach at Miami, beginning a long career in the profession.

Arnsparger is best known for serving as a defensive coordinator in the National Football League (NFL) for Miami Dolphins teams that won consecutive Super Bowls (1972 and 1973) and reached another (1982), all under head coach Don Shula. Arnsparger's defenses were an important part of the Dolphins' success, and earned two nicknames over his tenure - the "No Name Defense" in the 1970s and the "Killer Bees" in the 1980s. Later in his career, he served as the defensive coordinator for another Super Bowl runner-up, the 1994 San Diego Chargers.

Before coaching in the NFL, Arnsparger served as a defensive assistant for several college football teams. He was also the head coach of the New York Giants (1974-1976) and the Lousiana State University (LSU) Tigers (1983-1986), and served as the athletic director at the University of Florida (1986-1992).

Early years

Arnsparger was born in Paris, Kentucky in 1926. He attended Paris High School, and became connected with the school's longtime football and basketball coach, Blanton Collier. The relationship would have a major impact on his future career.

After serving in the United States Marines during World War II, Arnsparger attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he was a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity (Alpha Chapter). After graduating from Miami in January 1950, Arnsparger remained in Oxford to work as an assistant for the Miami football team during the 1950 season.

College assistant coach

Ohio State

On February 21, 1951, Arnsparger was hired by new head coach Woody Hayes of Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. He served as the Buckeyes' line coach until 1954.


In 1954, Arnsparger re-connected with Collier, who had been hired as head football coach at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Arnsparger remained at Kentucky for the next eight years until Collier was fired on January 2, 1962. During the 1959 season, he was joined on the coaching staff by a young coach who had served at the University of Virginia the previous year. That coach was Don Shula, with the two coaches forging a strong bond that would tie them for much of the next quarter century.


Arnsparger moved on to an assistant position with Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1962. After two years, he resigned the post on March 6, 1964 to become the defensive line coach for the Baltimore Colts under Shula.

National Football League

Baltimore Colts

In 1964, Arnsparger became the defensive line coach for the Baltimore Colts. That season, the Colts reached the National Football League (NFL) Championship game and remained one of the strongest teams of the 1960s, competing in Super Bowl III on January 12, 1969.

Miami Dolphins

When Shula left to become head coach with the Miami Dolphins after the end of the 1969 NFL season, he brought along Arnsparger, who was promoted to defensive coordinator. In just two seasons, the formerly moribund team had reached the Super Bowl, with Arnsparger fashioning what became known as the "No-Name Defense." World championships in each of the next two seasons, including an undefeated season during 1972, made Arnsparger a prime candidate for a head coaching position.

New York Giants

Following the Dolphins' 24–7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl VIII, Arnsparger was named head coach of the New York Giants. With the Giants he managed just seven wins in his thirty-five games. Arnsparger coached the Giants in three different home stadiums during his tenure: the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut in 1974; Shea Stadium, home of the cross-town rival New York Jets in 1975; and finally, Giants Stadium in 1976. Arnsparger was fired in the middle of the season on October 25, 1976, with the team having lost all seven of its games on the year.[1]

Return to the Dolphins

Just two days after his dismissal from the Giants, Arnsparger was rehired by Shula and was restored to his previous position as Miami's defensive coordinator while adding the title of assistant head coach.[2] In the team's first game under his leadership, the Dolphins won a 10–3 defensive battle with the New England Patriots, who had averaged thirty points per game entering the contest.

Miami finished the 1976 NFL season with a 6–8 mark, then narrowly missed a playoff berth the following season. During the next two seasons, the Dolphins reached the postseason, but dropped their first playoff game. During the strike-shortened 1982 NFL season, Miami reached Super Bowl XVII, but dropped a 27–17 decision to the Washington Redskins. Bill Arnsparger again had created an elite defensive unit, known as the Killer B's (so named because of the number of surnames beginning with "B" on the Dolphins defense).

LSU head coach

On December 2, 1983, Arnsparger was hired as head coach at Louisiana State University,[3] but finished his season with the Dolphins. As the Tigers' head coach, Arnsparger led LSU to two Sugar Bowl berths in three seasons, in 1984 and 1986, both times against Nebraska. In 1984, LSU finished in a tie for second behind Florida, but the SEC presidents voted to strip Florida of the conference championship due to NCAA rules violations and LSU participated in the Sugar Bowl instead. LSU's 1986 squad was the school's first Southeastern Conference champion since 1970, and the Tigers' last in the pre-championship game era.

Shortly after the final regular season game in 1986, Arnsparger announced he was resigning to become the athletic director at Florida.

University of Florida athletic director

At Florida, Arnsparger was tasked with cleaning up an athletic department which had been roiled by NCAA violations and subsequent punishments. The Florida Gators football team had been found in violation of many NCAA rules in the early 1980s and was still suffering under significant sanctions and probation when Arnsparger arrived, a situation which weakened the financial strength of the entire athletic department.

More problems surfaced in 1989. Head football coach Galen Hall was accused of committing minor rules violations, which became a major issue with the NCAA because of the just-completed probation. Hall was forced to resign during the season in October 1989, and after an NCAA investigation, the football program was placed back on probation the following year.[4] At about the same time, the NCAA was investigating allegations that the Florida Gators men's basketball program had paid star players and allowed sports agents to do the same. Less than a month after the head football coach has been forced to resign and less than a month before the start of the 1989-90 basketball season, long-time head basketball coach Norm Sloan was forced to take an early retirement and his entire coaching staff was dismissed.[5] Sloan subsequently claimed that the allegations were false and that Arnsparger's zealous attempts to clean up Florida's athletic department turned into a "witch hunt" that unfairly punished him and his staff.[6] Former Tennessee head coach Don DeVoe was quickly hired as interim coach.

Despite having both of the university's marquee sports placed on NCAA probation in 1990, Arnsparger was able to quickly rebuild Florida's athletic program by establishing better compliance procedures and by hiring new coaches who would bring success while following NCAA guidelines. In December 1989, Arnsparger hired Steve Spurrier, then the Duke University head coach and the Gators' Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in 1966. Over his twelve years at Florida, Spurrier became the school's all-time wins leader and brought the school its first six conference titles and the 1996 national championship. After a disastrous 1989–90 season under DeVoe, Arnsparger hired Lon Kruger as Florida's basketball coach. Kruger led the Gators to their first Final Four appearance in 1994 and set the stage for later and greater success under Billy Donovan. Florida's other athletic teams also began to improve during Arnsparger's tenure; the Gator baseball team reached the College World Series in 1988 and 1991.

During his time at Florida, Arnsparger was thought by some athletic department staff and boosters to be "domineering" and that, keeping with his background in coaching, he was "inflexible... sticking by his game plan at all costs.".[7] In hindsight, observers gave him credit for setting up the university's athletic department for unprecedented success after his tenure. Jeremy Foley, Arnsparger's successor as athletic director, credited him with "helping to right the ship during a very difficult time at the University of Florida."[8]

Return to the NFL

On January 13, 1992, Arnsparger resigned to become the defensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers. During his three seasons with the Chargers, the team's defense showed marked improvement, culminating with a berth in Super Bowl XXIX. Just days after the team's Super Bowl appearance, Arnsparger announced his retirement, citing the prostate cancer surgery he had undergone the year before.


Arnsparger died on July 17, 2015 at his home in Athens, Alabama at the age of 88. He was survived by his wife, his son David, his daughter Mary Susan, and his grandson Christian.[9]

Coaching tree

Assistant coaches under Bill Arnsparger who became NCAA or NFL head coaches:

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall ConferenceStanding Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
LSU Tigers (Southeastern Conference) (1984–1986)
1984 LSU 8–3–14–1–12ndL Sugar1615
1985 LSU 9–2–14–1–1T–2ndL Liberty2020
1986 LSU 9–35–11stL Sugar1110
LSU: 26–8–213–3–2
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth

See also


  1. "Arnsparger Out; McVay Gets Job". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 2018-07-29 via Google News Archive Search.
  2. "Arnsparger Back With Dolphins". Ocala Star-Banner. Retrieved 2018-07-29 via Google News Archive Search.
  3. "LSU Year-by-Year Records" (PDF). p. 107. Retrieved 2018-07-29.
  4. "Uf Football Coach Forced To Quit Probe: Hall Gave Money To Player, 2 Coaches". Orlando Sentinel.
  5. "Gators Oust Basketball Coach Norm Sloan". Orlando Sentinel.
  6. Guest, Larry (6 December 1989). "Sloan Breaks Silence, Lashes Out At Arnsparger". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  7. "Athletic Director's Chair Proves A Hot Seat For UF's Arnsparger". Orlando Sentinel.
  8. "Former Florida athletic director Arnsparger dies at 88". Gainesville Sun /
  9. "Former LSU football coach Bill Arnsparger dies", The Times-Picayune (July 17, 2015). Retrieved July 17, 2015.
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