TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Ray Perkins, who followed the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant as football coach at the University of Alabama and started the transition with the NFL's New York Giants that led to two Super Bowl titles, died Wednesday in Tuscaloosa. He was 79.
The school announced his death, and daughter Rachael Perkins also posted about it on her Facebook page. No other details were immediately available.
"He served the University of Alabama with great class and integrity," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said on the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference. "He was a great coach and had a tremendous impact on the game, and he was a really, really good person and a really good friend."
Perkins left after four years as head coach of the Giants to replace Bryant after the 1982 season. It was a dream job for the former Crimson Tide star receiver.
Perkins won three bowl games as Alabama's coach and was 32-15-1 overall from 1983 to 1986 — he also served as the school's athletic director during that period — but that included a 5-6 record in 1984. It was the program's first losing season since 1957, the year before the school hired Bryant.
Perkins also was the head coach of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers for four years (1987-90). He later spent one season leading the Arkansas State program before returning to the NFL to work as an assistant for several teams.
An All-American receiver at Alabama in 1966, Perkins played professionally for the Baltimore Colts for five years (1967-71).
"We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Coach Perkins," Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne said. "Just a year ago we were celebrating him as our SEC Football Legend in Atlanta, an honor he was truly deserving of."
While he had only a 23-34 regular-season mark with the Giants, Perkins started a turnaround for the franchise before leaving. In 1981, Perkins led the team to its first postseason berth since 1963. New York upset the Philadelphia Eagles, the reigning conference champions, in the NFC wild-card game before losing in the divisional round to the San Francisco 49ers, who went on to win the Super Bowl.
Perkins had been offensive coordinator with the San Diego Chargers before joining the Giants. He was the first major hire made by George Young, the Giants' general manager at the time, and the two upgraded the roster and installed discipline.
"I remember George saying, 'He will make it very uncomfortable for our players to lose," Giants co-owner John Mara said Wednesday. "Ray did a good job for us and got us into the playoffs in 1981 for the first time in many years. During the 1982 season, which was shortened due to a players' strike, he announced he was leaving at the end of the year to go to Alabama, which he described as his dream job."
Bill Parcells replaced Perkins and inherited a team that had Lawrence Taylor, Phil Simms and Harry Carson. The Giants won the Super Bowls that capped the 1986 and 1990 seasons.
"I always wondered whether he later regretted that decision," Mara said of Perkins' return to Alabama. "But he certainly left our team in much better shape than he found it in, including having Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick on his staff."
Parcells, the defensive coordinator Perkins had hired, led the Giants to five postseason berths, two NFC East titles and the two Super Bowl victories in his eight seasons as coach.
"I loved Ray, and he was a very close friend of mine," Parcells said Wednesday. "I was very saddened by the news. He's the only reason I was in pro football; he's the one who brought me into the league. He was my friend. I worked for him at the Giants and then he worked for me at the Patriots. He was a great guy."