Georgia Tech, ACC officials react to death of Homer Rice, longtime athletic director

Georgia Tech athletic director Homer Rice (left) visits with new coach Bobby Ross in 1987. John Spink / AJC

Credit: AJC file photo

Credit: AJC file photo

Georgia Tech athletic director Homer Rice (left) visits with new coach Bobby Ross in 1987. John Spink / AJC

The Georgia Tech community was saddened by the death of the legendary athletic director Homer Rice, who died Monday at the age of 97.

Rice was Georgia Tech’s athletic director from 1980-97. Under his leadership, the Yellow Jackets revitalized the athletics program, highlighted by winning its fourth football national championship in 1990. Tech’s men’s basketball team won its first Atlantic Coast Conference championship in 1985 and made its first NCAA Final Four appearance in 1990, and its baseball team advanced to the College World Series for the first time in 1994 with Rice at the helm.

As A.D., he hired some of Tech’s most successful and legendary head coaches, including Bobby Cremins in basketball, Bobby Ross and George O’Leary in football, Jim Morris and Danny Hall in baseball and Bruce Heppler in golf.

Some reaction from around the Georgia Tech and ACC world:

“Homer has reminded us throughout his career that the ultimate goal of intercollegiate athletics is to help student-athletes grow fully as people. At a time of profound changes in athletics, Homer’s message and legacy of excellence is more important than ever.” - Georgia Tech president Angel Cabrera

“The Georgia Tech athletics community is deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Homer Rice. Coach Rice was a giant in the fields of coaching and athletics administration. He oversaw the most successful era of Georgia Tech athletics and also, through his Total Person Program, has made and continues to make a positive impact on millions of student-athletes nationwide. His legacy will be a part of Georgia Tech and intercollegiate athletics forever. Our deepest condolences go out to his wife, Karen, his daughters, and all of his family and countless friends. He will be greatly missed.” - Georgia Tech athletic director J Batt

“Danielle, myself and the whole Georgia Tech Football family are so sad to learn of the passing of Homer Rice. On a personal level, Coach Rice was an inspiration to me and someone that I aspired to model myself after as a coach and a leader. He taught me the term “Tech Man,” a label that I hold as one of the greatest compliments in the world. The heartfelt letter that he sent me when I was named the head coach at Georgia Tech meant so much to me and is something that I will always treasure. But on a much larger level, Coach Rice is one of the most impactful figures in the history of Georgia Tech and all of college athletics. Tech Athletics flourished under his leadership and generations of Yellow Jackets - and student-athletes across the nation - have benefited from his Total Person philosophy. We will miss Coach Rice very much. On behalf of Tech Football, I send our condolences to Karen and the Rice Family.” - Georgia Tech football coach Brent Key

“Homer Rice was my inspiration to pursue a career in athletic administration when I graduated from UNC in 1971 while he was the Athletic Director. He was my mentor then, and has been throughout my adult life. I had the privilege of serving for 17 years as an A.D. with him in the ACC while he was at Georgia Tech and I was at UNC. Simply put, he was the best Athletic Director that I ever observed during my half century in college sports. He was the best leader, the most organized, the best motivator, the best innovator. He was full of integrity, decency and class. He was understated and humble, yet extremely successful. He lived his faith and his values every day. We have lost a truly special and positive man who had an immeasurable impact on uncountable lives. Nora and I send our heartfelt love and prayers to Karen and the entire Rice family.” - former ACC Commissioner John Swofford

“Dr. Homer Rice dedicated his entire life to creating and promoting the total student-athlete. He was incredibly influential in the development of student-athletes, not only at North Carolina and Georgia Tech, but throughout college athletics,” said ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips, Ph.D. “Dr. Rice’s ‘Total Person Program’ was ahead of its time and paved the way for NCAA programming by preparing student-athletes for life beyond collegiate athletics. Each of the seven pillars of the ‘Total Person’ program continue to resonate with not only myself, but every one of Dr. Rice’s peers, colleagues, and former student-athletes. Our thoughts, prayers and condolences are with the Rice family.” - Current ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips