Former Michigan State University head football coach George Perles has died. He was 85.
At MSU, Perles was a player, coach, athletic director, and university trustee.
A knee injury prematurely ended Perles’ playing career at MSU. But he returned to the Spartans as part of the coaching staff under legendary MSU head football coach Duffy Daugherty. Perles left the program in the 1970s to coach the Pittsburgh Steelers’ iconic Steel Curtain defense to four Super Bowl titles.
He returned to his alma mater in 1982. Sports commentator John U. Bacon says when Perles returned to MSU as head coach, defense was his calling card.
“He recruited guys who were hardnosed and tough. Guys like him pretty much. It was meat and potatoes. Nothing snazzy about it. Nothing fancy about it," Bacon said. "But what they did they did very well.”
Under Perles, the Spartans won two Big Ten titles, and he collected the third most wins in school history. But he was fired in 1994 amid an investigation into potential NCAA violations. Perles himself was later cleared.
He went on to serve as Michigan State's athletic director from 1990 to 1992. Perles was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.
In 2007, Perles was elected to a seat on the MSU Board of Trustees. He served during the Larry Nassar scandal, which lead to the resignation of president Lou Anna K. Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis, and ongoing scrutiny into the school's handling of sexual assault allegations.
Perles resigned from the board in 2018, citing health concerns due to Parkinson's disease. It was later discovered that then-president John Engler helped eliminate nearly $200,000 of Perles' debt from a gift pledge to the school. That lead to an investigation by Attorney General Dana Nessel.
George is survived by his wife, Sally, and their children Kathy, Terry, John and Patrick. They have six grandchildren.
In a statement, MSU President Samuel Stanley said, “My heart is with the entire Perles family. Former Trustee George Perles dedicated most of his life to service – service to our country and our university. From the classroom to the playing field, and athletic director to trustee, Mr. Perles embodied what it means to be a Spartan. The university is grateful for his decades of faithful service."