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UVA, ACC mourn the passing of former AD, commissioner Gene Corrigan

Gene Corrigan
Gene Corrigan/Photo Courtesy Virginia Athletics

Gene Corrigan, a former UVA athletics director, ACC commissioner and NCAA president, died peacefully overnight surrounded by his family in Charlottesville.

A 1952 Duke alum, where he was a four-year starter on the men’s lacrosse team, Corrigan was hired in 1955 as an assistant coach of basketball, soccer and lacrosse at Washington and Lee University.

Three years later, he began his first association with the University of Virginia, as the head lacrosse and soccer coach and assistant basketball coach.

After a three-year stint as a coach, Corrigan moved behind the scenes to become UVA’s sports information director.

He became the athletics director at Washington and Lee in 1969 and then was named AD at Virginia in 1971, and served in that capacity until 1981, when he left UVA to become the athletics director at Notre Dame.

Corrigan left the Notre Dame job in 1987 to become the commissioner of the ACC, serving in that capacity until his retirement in 1996.

During his 10 years as ACC commissioner, Corrigan engineered the successful addition of the league’s ninth member, Florida State University. He was also one of the driving forces behind the formation of the Football Bowl Alliance, which at the time guaranteed a major bowl commitment for the ACC champion.

“Gene Corrigan was a giant in our industry,” Virginia athletics director Carla Williams said in a statement. “Barry Parkhill, Coach Corrigan and I had a road trip not long after I arrived at UVA, and we could have talked for hours. I learned a lot that day. It was always a delight to see Coach Corrigan and Lena because of their genuine kindness. My prayers are with Lena, Boo, Debbie and the entire Corrigan family.”

“Simply stated, Gene Corrigan was an icon in the world of college sports,” former UVA athletics director Craig Littlepage said. “Few people have had as great a positive impact on college sports as Gene Corrigan. His roles as a thought leader and mentor influenced the future of college sports at the institutional level (Washington & Lee, UVA, Notre Dame), at the conference level as the Commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and at the national level as President of the NCAA; Gene’s roles were pivotal in so many ways. Gene’s leadership was transformational in how college sports were integrated as a significant part of the higher education experience and the building of ‘community’ across the country.

“Most of all, Gene’s keen ability to influence and lead diverse groups of coaches and administrators is legendary and the list of notable college leaders with whom he’s worked is impressive and endless. His impact will be felt by future generations of young athletes, coaches and administrators,” Littlepage said.

Corrigan has been recognized by countless organizations for his service to college athletics including the National Football Foundation’s highest honor – the Gold Medal (1996), Duke University Alumnus of the Year (1996), National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1993, the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2007, and the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2019.

“When Gene hired me at the University of Virginia straight out of graduate school, it was one of the luckiest days of my life,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “That day began a relationship and mentorship that lasted nearly half a century. Simply put, Gene was one of the most remarkable individuals, and leaders, I have ever known. His impact on the ACC and college athletics was profound and immeasurable, only surpassed by his impact on the individuals he positively affected – and there are a multitude of us.

“I will miss him immensely, but I am so grateful to have had him as a mentor, boss, friend and colleague for so many years,” Swofford said. “Nora and I spent several hours with Gene and Lena at their home in Charlottesville last fall. The time was truly special. Nora joins me in extending our hearts and prayers to Lena and the extraordinary Corrigan family.”

Corrigan is survived by his wife Lena (married 66 years/April 6, 1953), children Louise (Scott Wawner), Kathryn (Tony Zentgraf); David (Jean), Kevin (Lis), Brian (Kathy), Timothy (Jackie) and Boo (Kristen), 19 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Details on a memorial service are incomplete at this time.

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