ATLANTA — Homer Rice, who as athletic director hired some of Georgia Tech's most successful coaches and implemented the school's Total Person Program, has died. He was 97.

Rice died Monday, Georgia Tech announced on Monday night.

Rice was Georgia Tech's athletic director from 1980-97. Among his notable hires were basketball coach Bobby Cremins, football coaches Bobby Ross and George O'Leary and baseball coaches Jim Morris and Danny Hall. Georgia Tech won a share of the 1990 football championship and its first Atlantic Coast Conference basketball championship in 1985 while advancing to the Final Four in 1990.

The Yellow Jackets won 16 ACC championships in five sports during Rice's time leading the athletic department.

Rice was a high school, college and NFL football coach before beginning his career as an administrator. He coached the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals in 1979-79 before beginning his time at Georgia Tech.

Rice was a college assistant at Kentucky (1962-65) and Oklahoma (1966) and was the coach at Cincinnati (1967-68) before leaving to serve six years as North Carolina's athletic director. He was hired in 1976 as athletic director and football coach at Rice and held those positions for two years.

Rice's Total Person Program is regarded as the model for the NCAA's Life Skills Program. The Homer Rice Award is presented annually to a FBS athletic director in recognition for significant contributions to college athletics.

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

ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said in a statement 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.”

Phillips said Rice, a native of Bellevue, Kentucky, “was incredibly influential in the development of student-athletes, not only at North Carolina and Georgia Tech, but throughout college athletics.”

Former ACC commissioner and UNC athletic director John Swofford said Rice, AD at UNC when he graduated in 1971, was his inspiration to pursue a career in athletic administration.

“He was my mentor then, and has been throughout my adult life,” Swofford said in a statement. “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.”

Rice taught a leadership class at Georgia Tech until recent years and wrote a number of books on leadership success.

Georgia Tech dedicated a statue of Rice outside of Bobby Dodd Stadium in 2021. Dodd and John Heisman are the only other in Georgia Tech athletics to be commemorated with a statue.

Rice's wife of 64 years, Phyllis, died in 2013. He married his second wife, Karen, in 2015.

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