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Bengals Mourn Homer Rice

Homer Rice photos via National Football Foundation
Homer Rice photos via National Football Foundation

When Homer Rice died earlier this week at 97 in Atlanta, he was hailed for his cutting-edge career in college administration. But Bengaldom paused to remember a highly-regarded offensive coach who led the franchise for 27 games from 1978-79.

"He was a visionary," recalled Dave Lapham, the long-time radio analyst who played for him. "In practice, he would make insightful comments about how and what he wanted done. He would create mismatches for his best players as many ways as he could."

Rice, born a Greg Cook bomb away from Riverfront Stadium in Bellevue, Ky., a few months before Charles Lindbergh flew the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, was the head coach at the University of Cincinnati when Cook had a record-breaking season. The Bengals then took Cook with the fifth pick in the 1969 draft before he was named the AFL Rookie of the Year.

In 1978, Bengals founder Paul Brown hired Rice as quarterbacks coach and then made him the head coach when Tiger Johnson moved on five games into the season. The Bengals won eight games that year and the next before Rice became the athletic director at Georgia Tech in 1980.

"Incredibly intelligent. Incredibly poised. He was never too high with wins, never too high with losses," Lapham said. "I think Paul admired that in him. He wasn't a peaks-and-valley guy. He was pretty even keel on an every-day basis."

While at Tech, Rice created his "Total Person Program," that became the model for the NCAA's Life Skills Program. Every year the Homer Rice Award is presented to a FBS athletic director in recognition for significant contributions to college athletics.

Rice guided the school to a football national championship and a men's basketball Final Four appearance while six different programs at one time or another were No. 1 in national rankings.

Bengals president Mike Brown kept in touch with Rice down through the years.

"He was always upbeat. Always pushing for the sun that was going to come up tomorrow," Brown said. "He was a good person and his time at Georgia Tech shows how successful and impressive of a guy he was."