Bill Arnsparger, a 23-year NFL coach, 17-year collegiate football coach and the lead architect of the 1972 Miami Dolphins defense that bolstered the only undefeated season and postseason in the history of the NFL, died on Friday at age 88 in his home in Athens, Ala., according to multiple reports.
Throughout his 11-year career with the Dolphins Arnsparger graduated from defensive coordinator to associate head coach and lead one of the league's top two defenses in all but two of those seasons.
He pioneered the “No-Name” defense, which fuelled the team to a perfect 17–0 record and a Super Bowl victory. Arnsparger also developed the “53” defense, which allowed for a linebacker to either drop back into pass coverage or rush the passer as he deemed fit, throwing opposing teams out of their rhythm.
"I was saddened to learn of the passing of Bill Arnsparger, who I thought was one of the greatest defensive coaches in football," Dolphins then-head coach Don Shula said in a statement.
The Dolphins released a statement of their own, saying:
"Bill Arnsparger was a seminal figure in Dolphins history," the Dolphins said in a statement. "Along with Coach Shula and so many other great players and coaches, Bill played a pivotal role in establishing the Dolphins as one of the winningest teams in football and flagship franchises in professional sports. Our hearts and prayers go out to his loved ones and friends during this difficult time."
Arnsparger rode his success with Miami to a head coaching gig with the New York Giants in 1974, but went only 7–28 over two and a half seasons. He returned to Miami following his stint with the Giants, resuming his old role as assistant head coach
Arnsparger was also a defensive line coach at Miami (Ohio), Ohio State, Tulane and Kentucky from 1950 until 1963 before accepting the LSU Tigers' head coaching position in 1984. He led the Tigers to two SEC titles in three seasons before being named the athletic director of the University of Florida in 1986.