Bob Blasi, who won the most games of any football coach in University of Northern Colorado history, died Wednesday afternoon in Littleton.
He celebrated his 93rd birthday on Sunday.
Blasi’s death was confirmed Thursday by his daughter Lori Shields, who grew up in Greeley with the family while Blasi coached at UNC for 19 seasons from 1966-84.
Blasi’s teams won 107 games and lost 71 with three ties. Blasi’s .601 winning percentage is the second-best in school history to Joe Glenn. Glenn won nearly 74% of his games in 11 years, and his 98 victories — including back-to-back Division II national titles in 1996-97 — are second to Blasi.
Joe Drew, a Denver resident and 1970 UNC graduate, called Blasi the “architect” of UNC football.
“He was the guy who turned the program into a winning program,” said Drew, who played for Blasi from 1966-69 when the program was sprouting into a Division II power. “He was extremely organized. He was smart, and he hired good assistants. He was a good delegator which is what a head coach is supposed to do.”
Blasi and the 1969 team were inducted into the UNC Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999. Blasi was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.
Blasi was scheduled to be in Greeley this weekend to join Drew and other players from the early 1970s for a reunion while attending UNC’s Big Sky Conference game against Weber State.
Drew said he and Blasi didn’t always get along when Drew was playing because of Drew’s youthful stubbornness and a dislike for being told what to do. They grew to be friends over the years.
“I talked to him within the last 10 days,” Drew said. “I owe a lot to Bob Blasi. I have very fond memories of him.”
Shields said her father had been dealing with dementia over the past several years. He began to decline further following the death of his wife, Anne, in 2021. The couple met at Colorado State in 1953 when the school was then known as Colorado A&M. They were married for 67 years.
Family members had a chance to gather last weekend to celebrate Blasi’s birthday. He was born Sept. 24, 1930, in Cunningham, Kansas.
“It was great,” Shields said. “Everyone got to see him and spend time with him, and it was a good thing. It was coming. We knew it was coming.”
The Blasi family spent 43 years in Greeley where Blasi became a beloved, respected and well-known member of the community, Shields said. The Blasis left Greeley in 1996 to move to Littleton.
“He loved Greeley,” Shields said. “He had a ton of support in Greeley. He loved his players. We used to joke that he had to be the parent to the kids who came to play for him and my mom was the parent at home.”
In addition to Shields, Blasi is survived by another daughter, Valri Kaleda, and sons Doug, Brad and Chris and six grandchildren.
Shields remembered her father as a disciplinarian but always fair. He was always busy “doing something,” and he loved to fish but he didn’t want or require fancy equipment. He used to wear a pair of old deck shoes to fish so he could get a feel of where he was standing in the water.
“We’d ride on his back in the swimming pool,” Shields said of her and her siblings’ childhood. “We revered him. I think if you asked his friends, they’d say he was a stand-up guy and honest. One of the good guys, we used to call him. He was one of the good guys.”
When Blasi took over in 1966, UNC was still known as Colorado State College. The name remained with the school through 1969 when the football Bears finished 10-0 and won the first of three straight Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Plains Division titles.
The winning didn’t end with the 1969 season. Over the next six years, the Bears won 44 games and finished first or second in their conference through the 1975 season.
Blasi’s next best year was 1980 when UNC went 7-4, finished first in the North Central Conference and reached the NCAA Division II quarterfinals.
UNC athletic director Darren Dunn said Thursday afternoon he’d heard from 10-15 former players since they heard of Blasi’s death. Dunn said Blasi’s success is noteworthy given the coach won while the Bears were members of a different conference.
Dunn also said the message he’s heard from former players centers on Blasi the man and how he worked with and interacted with the athletes.
“I think the thing every great coach has is how they care for a team and how they develop the young men into men and prepare them for life,” Dunn said. “They remember what a great person he was and how much he cared for UNC and our community. I hope that’s what people know about him.”