Respected college basketball coach Rick Majerus, who led Ball State to one of the greatest seasons in school history, passed away Saturday, Dec. 1.
Majerus, who won more than 500 games in his career, also coached at Marquette, Utah and most recently Saint Louis. He was 64 years old.
"Ball State University was saddened to hear the news of Rick Majerus' death," Ball State director of athletics Bill Scholl says. "Coach Majerus' accomplishments at Ball State with the men's basketball program were very significant.
"He will always be remembered by the Ball State community for his tenure with the Cardinals. He made a positive impact on the city of Muncie, the student-athletes at Ball State and Cardinals' athletics. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Coach Majerus."
In just two years at Ball State, Majerus left a lasting impression. He took a Cardinals team that won nine games a year before his arrival to a 14-14 record in 1987-88 and a school-record 29-3 mark in 1988-89.
His 1988-89 team won both the Mid-American Conference regular season and tournament championships. The Cardinals defeated Purdue, Minnesota and Northwestern of the Big Ten that year and earned a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They advanced to the second round with a win over Pittsburgh before falling to No. 1 seed Illinois.
The win over Pitt was the first-ever NCAA Tournament victory for Ball State. Majerus left for Utah after that season, but the team he had assembled went on to play in the NCAA Sweet 16 the following year under his former assistant Dick Hunsaker.
Known throughout the basketball community for his knowledge of the game and ability to prepare his teams, Majerus was named the MAC Coach of the Year and the Hoop Scoop National Coach of the Year in his second season with the Cardinals.
"While I didn't have many interactions with Coach Majerus, I do know that he had an amazing basketball mind," Ball State coach Billy Taylor says. "He truly loved the game and loved to teach the game and interact with student-athletes. He also had a caring heart and a larger-than-life personality that will definitely be missed."
The Wisconsin native went on to spend 15 seasons at Utah with 11 of those teams advancing to the NCAA Tournament. His 1997-98 Utah team finished 30-4 and played in the national championship game, where it lost to Kentucky.
Majerus won six Western Athletic Conference regular season championships at Utah and was a five-time WAC Coach of the Year.
After three years away from coaching, Majerus returned to the bench in 2007 at Saint Louis. He turned around the Billikens program and took them to the NCAA Tournament in his final season. He was 26-8 last year at Saint Louis and finished his 25-year head coaching career with a record of 517-215.
Former Ball State player and current trustee Rick Hall on Coach Majerus ...
"My teammates and I have often commented in the past how fortunate we were to have played for Coach Majerus. He brought together a unique collection of personalities and created a magical time for Ball State, Muncie and all of us as players. The friendships he helped create remain some of my most valued relationships.
"Coach Majerus recognized how much he could impact the lives of young men and poured the same passion and intensity into developing us as people as he did into making us basketball players. He used an incredible ability to captivate and motivate to drive home meaningful lessons. Over 20 years later, I remember much more what he taught me about life than anything he taught me about the game of basketball. As a result, he impacted who I am today more so than any individual outside of my family.
"Like so many others, I really enjoyed spending time with him, and the thought of not doing so again hurts. I am comforted by knowing how lucky I am to count myself among the many who benefited from his generous spirit. While his coaching record was spectacular, Coach Majerus' lasting legacy will be the numerous young men that helped mold and the impact that they have made, and will continue to make, as they carry his values to their families and communities. For that reason, among others, I will always reverently, affectionately, and most of all gratefully refer to him as 'Coach' Majerus."