Compiled From Combined Sources —
Donnie Duncan, who coached Navarro football three years in the 1970s and reignited the program’s winning legacy, died early Sunday morning at his Dallas home.
Duncan, whose prominent athletic career spanned more than four decades, died after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 75.
Duncan became Navarro’s fourth head football coach in 1970 and compiled a 24-7-1 record here in three seasons. His 1970 squad finished as Texas Junior College Football Conference (TJCFC) runner-up, capping an 11-1 season with a 21-0 Wool Bowl Championship over Grand Rapids, Mi., at Roswell, N.M.
His .758 career winning percentage at Navarro ranks third behind Nick Bobeck and Bob McElroy among all-time Bulldog coaches.
Navarro had experienced 7 consecutive seasons of no better than .500 football until Duncan’s arrival, and the 1970 Bulldogs set a school single-season win total (11) that remained unmatched until Bobeck’s teams did it consecutively (2009-2010).
Duncan was honored by The National Football Foundation (NFF) December 8, 2015, with a Legacy Award at its 57th Annual Awards Dinner in New York City.
“Donnie Duncan has spent his entire life involved with the game of football,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “Duncan made an impact at every level, starting as a high school and college player before becoming a successful Texas high school football coach. He would go on to be a prominent assistant for two national titles at Oklahoma, the head coach at Iowa State and an executive director of two bowl games. Duncan did an incredible job as Oklahoma’s athletics director, and he was absolutely key to the foundation of the Big 12 Conference. He is the epitome of the NFF’s mission of Building Leaders Through Football, and we are proud to honor his dedication to the game with an NFF Legacy Award.”
Prior to helping launch the Big 12 Conference, Duncan served as the University of Oklahoma’s eighth athletics director from 1986-96. Along with former University of Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell, Duncan played a key role in the formation of the Big 12 Conference in 1995. At the conference, he oversaw everything from selection of officiating crews and negotiating television agreements to ticket sales for the Big 12 championship game.
Named one of Sporting News’ 10 most powerful people in college sports, he served on the College Football Association’s TV committee, and he chaired the NCAA Special Events Committee, which oversaw all-star and bowl games. He also served on the research committee that studied the feasibility of a college football playoff.
At Oklahoma, Duncan helped open the OU Academic Center in Memorial Stadium in 1992. The facility houses centers for academic counseling, computers, writing and reading plus tutorial rooms, individual study areas and a foreign language lab. Oklahoma led the conference with a football graduation rate of 57 percent during his tenure as athletics director. Before coming to Oklahoma, Duncan served as executive director of the Sun Bowl from 1984-85 and the Gator Bowl from 1985-86.
Duncan served as assistant coach at Oklahoma from 1973-78, helping the Sooners to a 62-6-2 record, six Big 8 titles, four bowl berths, three bowl victories and two National Championships under College Football Hall of Fame head coach Barry Switzer. In 1979, he became the 26th head football coach at Iowa State. In four seasons under Duncan, the Cyclones recorded an 18-24-2 record. His teams beat in-state rival Iowa three years in a row from 1980-82 and knocked off then No. 8 Missouri 34-13 in 1981. He coached four members of the Cyclones All-Time Team, including third round NFL draft picks Dwayne Crutchfield and Karl Nelson.
Duncan began his coaching career in 1962 as an assistant coach for Dublin High School (Texas) before entering the college ranks as an assistant coach at Tarleton State University (Texas). He took his first head coaching job at Honey Grove High School (Texas), where he led the Warriors to a 20-3-1 record and two District 16-A titles. Duncan also served as the assistant coach for Henderson Junior College in Athens, Texas, and the head coach of Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas.
A native of Celeste, Texas, Duncan was an all-district quarterback for the Celeste High School Blue Devils. At Austin College (Texas), he was a four-year letterman in both football and baseball. In 1962, Duncan received the Gene Babb Trophy as the most outstanding football player and the Pete Cawthon Award as the most outstanding athlete of the year. He was also named the outstanding senior man at the college, and he was presented with an award by the Sherman Chamber of Commerce for prominence in academic, civic and extracurricular activities. Duncan was inducted into the Austin College Athletic Hall of Honor in 1971, and he received the school’s Meritorious Service Award in 1998. In 2004, he was presented with Austin College’s Coach Joe Spencer Award for Meritorious Service and Lifetime Achievement in Coaching.
He is survived by his wife, Sally; his daughter, Amy, and son-in-law Patrick Reardon, and two granddaughters.