Maine native Dick MacPherson, head coach of the New England Patriots in 1991-92 and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, died Tuesday at age 86.

MacPherson, who grew up in Old Town, also coached at the University of Massachusetts in the 1970s and at Syracuse University in the ’80s.

He died at a Syracuse, New York, hospital with his family at his side, according to Syracuse University. Cause of death was not released.

His loss was felt at the University of Maine, especially by former Black Bear football coaches Walter Abbott and Jack Cosgrove. They both remembered MacPherson as someone who always reached out to people from his home state.

“He never, ever, forgot where he was from,” said Abbott, who coached against MacPherson when he was at UMass. “He was so proud of the people of Maine and the state of Maine that any job he was involved with, they certainly knew about Maine.”

Abbott, who coached the Black Bears from 1967-75, called MacPherson “a player’s coach. He was open and honest with them and that’s the way he was in life.” The two were close friends and Abbott said MacPherson offered him a job several times but always turned it down. “We were too good of friends to work together,” said Abbott.

Cosgrove, who coached Maine from 1993-2005, also had a long relationship with MacPherson, dating back to his high school days in Sharon, Massachusetts. “He was a great friend to me, a great supporter, great mentor,” said Cosgrove.

Cosgrove was recruited out of high school by MacPherson to play at UMass, while Abbott was recruiting him to play at Maine. Cosgrove couldn’t get into Maine at first, so he committed to UMass. When Abbott called him in May to tell Cosgrove that he was now academically eligible to play at Maine, Cosgrove called UMass to de-commit because he liked Maine better.

“I was at my graduation party and my phone rings,” said Cosgrove. “And my mother looks at me and says, ‘It’s Coach MacPherson.’ And she handed me the phone. I must have turned white.

“There at my graduation party he lit me up for backing down from my decision. He used words I had never heard before.”

Of course, Cosgrove said, his first college start would be against UMass, which beat Maine soundly. “We laughed and joked about that later,” said Cosgrove. “He was a great guy and really helped me in coaching.”

While with the Patriots, MacPherson would invite Cosgrove and other Maine coaches to attend team’s training camp at Bryant College. “He was great to Maine football. He wasn’t a Maine grad or a Maine coach but he was really great for us,” said Cosgrove.

MacPherson restored Syracuse to national prominence before heading to the Patriots. He had an undefeated season with the Orangemen in 1987, when his team finished 11–0–1 and tied Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.

In 17 years as a college head coach, he compiled a 111-73-5 record and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009. MacPherson was 8-24 in two seasons with the Patriots.

Staff Writer Mike Lowe contributed to this report.

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