MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Bob McNamara, an All-American football player for Minnesota in the 1950s and later a major fundraiser for the university, has died. He was 82.
McNamara died after a long illness on Sunday night, the school announced on Monday.
"Anyone who knew Bob knew that there was no greater supporter of the university," former athletic director Joel Maturi said. "He took great pride coming from Hastings, Minnesota, and playing for the Gophers and then took even greater pride in following and supporting the Gophers. Nobody was better at fundraising or cared more about Minnesota than Bob. He will be deeply missed."
McNamara played for the Gophers from 1951-54. He was an All-American running back and the team MVP in 1954, going on to play professionally for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Canada and the Denver Broncos in the AFL.
After his playing career was over, McNamara was one of the school's leading fundraisers. He played a big role in raising money for the new outdoor football stadium, which opened in 2009. He also helped spearhead efforts to get a new outdoor baseball stadium and a new tennis center built, and along with brother Pinky, was the namesake for the school's McNamara Alumni Center.
"From the first day I met Bob, it was easy to tell that he was a special Gopher," athletic director Norwood Teague said. "He loved Minnesota and everything it stood for and was a tireless promoter and fundraiser for the university.
"From athletics to academics, his fingerprints are all over this campus, as he literally had an impact in everything that we do. There will never be another Bob McNamara and we thank him and his family for everything they have done for Minnesota."
When the men's and women's golf teams and the men's tennis teams were threatened to be cut at by the cash-strapped athletic department in 2002, McNamara teamed with fellow alumni Lou Nanne and Harvey McKay to raise the funds to keep all three teams part of the varsity sports program. He also helped establish endowed scholarships to ensure the long-term health of the programs.
"He was a tremendous supporter of the tennis programs and took a lead position in helping get the Baseline Tennis Center built," men's tennis coach Geoff Young said. "He became a personal friend of mine and was somebody who always had a smile on his face and was willing to help whenever help was needed. He will be greatly missed."
McNamara was one of six children raised by his mother in Hastings, about 30 miles south of the Twin Cities.
McNamara is survived by his wife, Annette, and three children.