Oct. 1, 2002
By CHRIS METTEER
EUGENE, Ore. -- Len Casanova, the longtime head football coach and athletic director at the University of Oregon and a member of the Santa Clara University Athletic Hall of Fame who is widely regarded as the most beloved sports figure in the state, died Monday night at a Eugene retirement center. He was 97.
Casanova coached the Ducks from 1951 through 1966, finishing with an 82-73-8 record. He served as the school's athletic director from 1967-70, and stayed active as a fund-raiser and supporter for Oregon athletics into the new century.
"Although we all knew this one day would happen, it doesn't take away from the sorrow we all feel," UO Athletics Director Bill Moos said. "Everything that Oregon athletics is today, it owes to Len Casanova. He has been the pillar, the strength and the inspiration for our program for over 50 years.
"We will miss him dearly."
Casanova died at approximately 10:32 p.m. Monday at Sheldon Park Assisted Living following an extended illness.
Casanova, a graduate of Santa Clara University, was the head football coach at Oregon for 16 seasons. He took the Ducks to three bowl games during his coaching tenure, including a near-upset of highly favored Ohio State in the 1958 Rose Bowl. His Ducks also reached the Liberty Bowl in 1960, losing to Penn State 41-12, and the 1963 Sun Bowl, where they defeated Southern Methodist 21-14.
His tenure left him as the winningest coach in the school's football history until sdurpassed by Rich Brooks in 1994. His 1958 team ranked second in the country in scoring defense, allowing just five points a game and surrendering more than seven points in a game only once during the entire season.
He began his college coaching career at his alma mater in 1946 and led the Broncos to the 1950 Orange Bowl and a 21-13 victory over Kentucky. He then had a one-year stint at the University of Pittsburgh, which he left to take over an Oregon program that had finished 1-9 the previous season.
He concluded his 21-year collegiate coaching career with a 104-97-10 record.
He was a former president of the American Football Coaches Association and was inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1997. He was presented with the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award by the national football foundation in 1990 for his outstanding contributions to the sport.
The university honored Casanova in 1991 by naming its new athletic department facilities the Len Casanova Athletic Center.
In 1992, he was one of the charter inductees into the university's Athletic Hall of Fame.
He was born Leonard Joseph Casanova on June 12, 1905, in Ferndale, Calif. He is survived by his wife, Margaret of Eugene; daughters Margot Casanova Wells of Ferndale and Andrea Casanova of Portland; three grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.