George Perles, former Michigan State University football coach, AD and trustee, dies at 85 – WDIV ClickOnDetroit


Former Michigan State University football coach, athletic director and trustee George Perles has died.

He was 85.

Perles played football for Michigan State back in the 1950s, then was the team’s head coach from 1983–1994. He also coached in the NFL before returning to Michigan State to serve as the school’s athletic director. He was elected as a Democrat to the Board of Trustees in 2006.

He resigned from his position on the school’s Board of Trustees in November 2018. In his letter of resignation, Perles cited his health issues — specifically his battle with Parkinson’s disease — as part of his reason for stepping aside.

George Perles
George Perles

Perles actually started his football coaching career as a graduate assistant at Michigan State. He then entered the high school ranks, coaching schools in Detroit and Chicago. He led St. Ambrose High School to their first Detroit City League Championship in 1961. Perles returned to Michigan State as a defensive line coach under Duffy Daugherty.

Perles was hired as defensive line coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1972, and became the defensive coordinator in 1978. He was also the assistant head coach of the Steelers from 1979 to 1982.

Perles then took a head coaching job with the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL in 1982, but never made it to the first season after he was offered the head coaching position at Michigan State.

In his 12 years as head coach, Perles led the Spartans to two Big Ten Championships (1987, 1990), and seven bowl games.

Nick Saban, current head football coach of Alabama, worked under Perles as a defensive coach at Michigan State from 1983 to 1987.

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