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Dr. Don Bunce, 54; Quarterbacked Stanford to ’72 Rose Bowl Victory

Times Staff Writer

Dr. Don Bunce, who as a college quarterback led his Stanford University team to victory against heavily favored Michigan in the 1972 Rose Bowl and was named the game’s most valuable player, has died. He was 54.

Bunce, an orthopedic surgeon, died Tuesday of a heart attack while vacationing in the Santa Cruz area.

Led by Bunce, the 1971 Stanford team went to the ’72 Rose Bowl after a 9-3 regular season record in what was then the Pac 8. He was named first-team all-conference quarterback after throwing for 2,265 yards and 13 touchdowns in the regular season.

In the 1972 Rose Bowl, Bunce completed 24 of 44 passes for 290 yards as Stanford stunned unbeaten Michigan 13-12 on a field goal by Rod Garcia with just 12 seconds left to play.

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Bunce set up that winning kick with a dramatic final drive, completing five passes to five different receivers.

Born in Redwood City, Calif., Bunce attended Woodside High School, where he excelled in several sports. At Stanford, he played rugby in addition to football and graduated with a degree in human biology.

After college, he played professional football in Canada for one season with the British Columbia Lions to finance his medical education at Stanford.

He became a successful orthopedic surgeon -- practicing in the Palo Alto area -- and served as the Stanford team doctor from 1982 to 1992.

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Most recently, he volunteered to be the doctor for the USA National Rugby Team.

Bunce explained his decision to become a doctor to The Times some years ago.

“My wife, Diana, and I were married next to the Acropolis in Athens,” Bunce said before the ’72 Rose Bowl game. “The next day she came down with a really serious kidney infection and spent all but two of the next 30 days in hospitals. One doctor diagnosed it as stomach trouble.”

He said the medical profession had always fascinated him and, after going through that experience with his ailing wife, he made up his mind to enter medicine.

Diana Bunce died of colon cancer in 1982 at the age of 37.

Bunce remarried in 1999. He is survived by his wife, Jennifer; two children from his first marriage, Cameron and Mikele; his parents, Carole and Sid Bunce; sisters Cheryl, Linda and Pam; and brothers Gary and Steve.

Memorial services will be held at 4 p.m. May 1 at Stanford Memorial Church.

Contributions in his name may be made to Athletes in Action, 262 Rutherford Ave., Redwood City, CA 94061.

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Years after his Stanford victory, Bunce commented on the difference a year could make in one’s college football career.

Stanford had won the 1971 Rose Bowl, upsetting unbeaten Ohio State 27-17. That Stanford team was led by quarterback Jim Plunkett, who was the game’s MVP and would go on to have an exceptional professional football career that included two Super Bowl victories.

“There was a mob of sportswriters around Plunkett, and his locker was next to mine,” Bunce said. “I couldn’t get near it to undress and take a shower.

“Finally, the writers all left and I got into the shower long after everyone else had. When I got out of the shower, everyone was gone. I got dressed in a hurry, ran outside, and the bus was gone. They’d left without me.”

After the 1972 Rose Bowl, nobody left without Bunce, that game’s MVP.


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