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Former MSU football coach and Board of Trustee George Perles dies at 85

“George was a true Spartan and will be deeply missed."

EAST LANSING, Mich. — George Perles, a former  Michigan State head football coach, athletic director, football player and Board of Trustee member passed away on Tuesday, Jan. 7. He was 85. 

Perles led the Spartan football program from 1983-94 and guided Michigan State to two Big Ten titles (1987 and 1990) and seven bowl appearances in his 12 seasons.

A native of Detroit, Perles also spent 12 years as a member of the Michigan State Board of Trustees from 2007-18. In addition, he served as MSU Athletics Director from 1990-92, was a Spartan assistant coach from 1967-71, and lettered as a tackle in 1958.

An Army veteran, Perles received his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State in 1960 and a master’s degree in educational administration in 1961.

Perles is also a member of the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame and the Western Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.

Credit: AP
FILE - In this March 16, 2016, file photo, former Michigan State head football coach George Perles watches a Pro Day college football workout at Michigan State in East Lansing. In a statement Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, Perles resigned as a member of Michigan State University's governing board after nearly 12 years, citing his age and health. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

In addition to his wife, Sally, Perles leaves behind four children, Kathy of Washington, Pa., Terry (Tracey) of Pittsburgh, John (Amy) of Grand Rapids and Pat (Karen) of Kansas City and six grandchildren.

Details of Perles’ funeral service are pending.

The following are statements sent by the Michigan State Athletic Communications. 

Michigan State Athletic Director Bill Beekman:
“Trustee Perles was a great advocate for Michigan State University, and a warm, dear friend. He loved the University with all his heart, serving in many different capacities. My thoughts are with Sally and the Perles family at this difficult time.”

Michigan State Head Football Coach Mark Dantonio:
“Coach Perles exuded confidence, conviction and toughness. He really gave his life to Michigan State, all the way till the end.

"He welcomed me back to MSU when I first became the head coach here. Not many people have been in these shoes, but he was one of them, and was always extremely supportive every step of the way. He was someone you could lean on. Many times over the past 13 years he would speak to our team.

“George was one of the most renowned coaches in America; everybody knew who Coach Perles was and what he brought to the game. He had tremendous success, winning the Rose Bowl and two Big Ten titles, and developed countless NFL players. I first got to know his reputation when I was a graduate assistant at Ohio State. He always brought a blue-collar mentality and really we’ve embraced a lot of things in our program over the years that came from him. He left a legacy and was an impactful figure.

“George was a true Spartan and will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Perles family during this difficult time.”

Michigan State Head Men’s Basketball Coach Tom Izzo:
“George Perles embraced me from the moment I arrived at Michigan State. He showed me what it meant to be a Spartan, and how to be loyal. Throughout my career, especially as I was getting started, he was one of the people I consulted on any major decision I had to make.

“Lupe and I send our deepest condolences to Sally and the entire Perles family. George is the truest Spartan I have ever met.”


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