Buddy Teevens, the winningest football coach in Dartmouth College history and a pioneer in the effort to minimize gridiron injuries, died Monday, six months after a bicycle accident in which he was struck by a pickup truck on a Florida highway. He was 66.
Mr. Teevens, an accomplished bicyclist who in 2007 raised $12,000 for breast cancer research in a 3,200-mile bike trip from San Diego to Hanover, N.H., died from multiple injuries that had led to a leg amputation and several medical complications. He underwent treatment in three states, including Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown.
“This is tragic news for Dartmouth and the entire football world,” Sian Leah Beilock, the college’s president, and Mike Harrity, the director of athletics and recreation, said in an email to the Dartmouth community.
Harrity and interim head coach Sammy McCorkle broke the news to the football team after practice.
A star quarterback at Silver Lake Regional High School in Kingston, Deerfield Academy, and Dartmouth, Mr. Teevens won five Ivy League championships as head coach. He was chosen New England Coach of the Year three times in a career that, besides 22 years in two stints at Dartmouth, included head coaching jobs at Maine, Tulane, and Stanford.
Mr. Teevens, with decades-long friend Archie Manning and his son, Peyton Manning, created the Manning Passing Academy for aspiring quarterbacks, and for a quarter-century he was a prominent instructor at the summertime school, now located in Thibodaux, La. During the 2023 summer at the academy, Archie Manning wore a hat emblazoned “BT STRONG” and staffers wore wristbands reading “PRAY FOR BUDDY.”
Mr. Teevens was both quarterback and throwback. As a disciplined college player, he led Dartmouth to the 1978 Ivy League championship while being named Ivy League Player of the Year and an honorable mention All-America — and he also played varsity hockey. As a sentimental coach, he gathered his Dartmouth teams in a semicircle after each game and led them in singing the college’s alma mater; and after winter storms, he would walk to the center of Memorial Field, shovel in hand, to clear the snow from the “D” near the 50-yard line.
But Mr. Teevens’s greatest legacy was not in the 117 games he won at Dartmouth (while losing 101 times and tying twice) but in the player injuries he avoided.
He was the first major-college coach to eliminate actual tackling in practices, first using tackling dummies and eventually a remote-control robot known as a Mobile Virtual Player, which quickly spread to other college practice fields and the NFL. A Wall Street Journal headline read: “Dartmouth is the Blueprint for NFL Success in 2020. Yes, Dartmouth.”
The rapid decrease in practice injuries was a recruiting boon for Mr. Teevens, whose innovations and personality won over athletes’ parents and helped him assemble his Dartmouth teams.
Mr. Teevens’s instincts for leadership were apparent early in his life.
“He was one determined college quarterback,” said Shoun Kerbaugh, who was Mr. Teevens’s freshman quarterback coach. “He hated to be intercepted and would punish a guy — drill him — if he intercepted his pass. You knew he’d be a great leader. Even at 18, people responded to him.”
Over 32 seasons as a head coach, he had a record of 151-178-2. His coaching career began at DePauw University in Indiana, where he was running backs coach. Mr. Teevens then served as offensive coordinator at Boston University under Rick Taylor, a Dartmouth assistant coach during Mr. Teevens’s undergraduate years.
“In a field of hard-working people, Buddy stood out as one of the hardest-working people ever,” said Taylor, later the athletic director at BU, Cincinnati, and Northwestern. “I hired Buddy because I figured he’d be a positive influence on kids and also a damn good coach.”
Mr. Teevens moved from BU to Maine as head coach for two years before taking the helm for five years at his alma mater, where his success prompted Tulane to hire him in 1992. There, like so many successful Ivy League coaches, he found that the magic dust he spread in the East held little power outside the region.
He was fired after an 11-35 record and began an extended time in the football wilderness, taking assistant coaching jobs at Illinois and Florida before landing the head coaching position at Stanford.
His years at the Farm were difficult. His Cardinal teams went 10-33 and he didn’t manage a single win against rivals Notre Dame, USC, and Cal.
“Even so, there was a general acknowledgment that this guy was a class act,” said Rich Jaroslovsky, former chairman of the Stanford Alumni Association. “All that he achieved after his return to Dartmouth, particularly his innovations aimed at improving his players’ health and safety, reinforced the sense he was a most unusual, and admirable, coach and man.”
Mr. Teevens is remembered for his graciousness in appearing at the press conference announcing his firing at Stanford in 2004.
Soon Dartmouth beckoned again, and after only 10 wins in his first five seasons back in Hanover — including the Big Green’s only 0-10 season in program history — Mr. Teevens began to experience modest, and then spectacular, success. He won the Ivy League three times in the six seasons between 2015 and 2021. (There were no Ivy League football games in the COVID year of 2020.)
Mr. Teevens, who was mentored by former NFL quarterback and visionary college coach Steve Spurrier, was himself a prolific master of mentoring.
Omar Khan, the general manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers, got his start when, as a Tulane freshman, he begged Mr. Teevens for a job. On the spot Mr. Teevens offered Khan, who had scant experience, a position as an undergraduate assistant for the football team and became Khan’s lifelong mentor, eventually using his influence to get him a player personnel internship with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.
“I would not be where I am if it weren’t for Coach Teevens,” Khan said. “He gave me my first shot in football and took the time to teach me not only about the game but how to conduct myself as a man. Buddy was first-class all the way around, and he always, always, always called to check up with me.”
Born Eugene Francis Teevens III on Oct. 1, 1956, in Pembroke, he was one of nine children of Eugene F. Teevens II, a glass company executive, and Mary Horn Teevens.
In addition to his mother, he leaves his wife, the former Kirsten Anderson, two children, Lindsay and Eugene IV; and four grandchildren.
Competitive as a child, he remained so throughout his life, running the Boston Marathon with little running experience. Harvard football coach Tim Murphy, a teammate on the Silver Lake High teams, a fellow assistant coach at BU, and then an assistant under Mr. Teevens at Maine, said his own life was marked by marathon workout sessions at the Teevens home in Plymouth County.
“I was a teammate and best friend of Buddy’s for 55 years,” said Murphy, whose postgame midfield meetings with Mr. Teevens after Harvard-Dartmouth games were reunions rather than rituals. “We worked out together for eight straight years in high school and college. We coached together. We were in each other’s weddings and were godfathers for each other’s first-born.
“We were like brothers without the complications. There was no relationship like this in coaching — or almost anywhere.”