Archie Cooley, the college football coach whose innovative offense launched Jerry Rice, has died

Remembering SWAC legend Archie

Associated Press

Archie Cooley, the innovative Black college football coach whose offense helped Jerry Rice become a star at Mississippi Valley State, has died, his family announced through the school Thursday. He was 84.

“The MVSU Family sends our condolences to the Cooley Family,” the school said in a social media post, but did not share details about Cooley’s death.

Nicknamed “Gunslinger” for his passion for the passing game, Cooley spent 19 seasons as a head coach at four HBCUs and went 83-78-5.

The Mississippi native played both ways at Jackson State in the Southwestern Athletic Conference in the early 1960s and started his coaching career as a defensive assistant.

He became a head coach for the first time in the SWAC at Mississippi Valley State in 1980. Cooley’s five-wide receiver, no-huddle offense helped revolutionize the passing game at a time when many top programs were still using run-heavy attacks.

Mississippi Valley State made its only Division I-AA playoff appearance in 1984 with Rice setting records with 112 catches for 1,845 yards and 27 touchdowns in 11 games. Rice went on to become a first-round draft pick for the San Francisco 49ers, the NFL’s most prolific wide receiver and a Hall of Famer.