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Richard 'Dick' Perry dies at 85; former USC athletic director

Richard 'Dick' Perry dies at 85; former USC athletic director
Richard "Dick" Perry, USC's athletic director from 1975 to 1984, died Sunday in Riverside. He was 85. After resigning from USC, Perry went on to become UC Riverside's athletic director. (handout)

Richard "Dick" Perry, who was USC's athletic director for nine years from 1975 to 1984, died Sunday in Riverside of a stroke and heart attack, the university announced Monday afternoon. He was 85.

The Trojans won 20 national team championships during Perry's tenure, including eight men's titles that included football, baseball and swimming. USC won the national football championship in 1978 under Coach John Robinson.

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USC women's teams won 12 championships in basketball, tennis and volleyball while Perry was athletic director.

But Perry resigned in 1984 amid reports that a special athletic advisory council at USC had recommended that he be removed, mainly because the men's athletic program had fallen in national prominence.

At the time of Perry's departure, the Trojans had won only one men's national championship, in volleyball, since 1978. The men's football team also was coming off its first losing season in 22 years.

Regardless, "Dick Perry did an outstanding job as our athletic director and left an impressive legacy," Barbara Hedges, an associate athletic director under Perry, said in a statement released by the school. "It was a privilege for me to work for him."

After leaving USC, Perry was athletic director at UC Riverside from 1987 to 1992.

Perry graduated from Long Beach Wilson High School and earned a bachelor's degree from the College of Emporia in Kansas, followed by a master's degree from Kansas State Teachers College and a doctorate from USC in 1968.

He coached basketball, baseball and football at College of Emporia in the 1950s, then was head basketball coach at Long Beach State from 1960 to 1967.

Perry then became an associate professor of physical education at USC for eight years, during which he was a member of USC's faculty senate, until he was named athletic director in 1975.

In late April 1984, The Times reported that the 18-member special council formed by then-USC President James Zumberge to study all facets of the Trojans' athletic program recommended that Perry be removed as athletic director.

Perry instead announced a week later he would resign.

Perry told reporters he wasn't forced out and believed he could turn around the USC athletic program but perhaps not quickly enough to please his critics.

"Anyone who comes to work at USC ... better understand there is one basic ground rule — can you beat the [UCLA] Bruins and win a national championship? Anything less than that is unacceptable," Perry said.

After retiring from UC Riverside, Perry remained active in community affairs in Riverside. He was a former president of the executive board of the Riverside Sport Hall of Fame.

Perry is survived by his wife, Donna; children Jim, Joan, John and Janelle; and six grandchildren.

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A memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Oct. 27 at Calvary Presbyterian Church, 4495 Magnolia Ave., Riverside.

Twitter: PeltzLATimes

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