College football innovator, Lakes High grad Mike Dunbar dies at 64

Staff writerSeptember 14, 2013 

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Longtime football coach Mike Dunbar, center, spent the 2011 season as an assistant at Tenino High School, before returning to the college ranks as the offensive coordinator for Northern Illinois in 2012. Dunbar died Friday at the age of 64.

TONY OVERMAN — Staff photographer file, 2011 Buy Photo

When it came to answering complicated questions about complex football offenses, it seemed like Mike Dunbar’s telephone never stopped ringing.

Considered one of the true spread passing offensive gurus around the country, Dunbar died Friday afternoon at his home in Dupont after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 64.

A 1967 graduate of Lakes High School, Dunbar made stops at 10 different colleges as an offensive football coach, ranging from Northwest powerhouse Pacific Lutheran University (1976-78) and Central Washington (1980-83, 1987-91) in the early days to NCAA Division I programs Northwestern (2001-05), California (2006) and Minnesota (2007-08) in his later years.

He took a year off to help out at Tenino High School in 2011, but was lured back to the NCAA Division I ranks at Northern Illinois, hired as that school’s offensive coordinator in February of 2012.

“He was an educator,” said Linda Dunbar, his wife, “not just a coach.”

At the time, Dunbar was diagnosed with cancer. Eventually because of health concerns, the school reassigned him as a special assistant, but he still assisted on the team’s weekly game-planning.

Dunbar resigned his position, and eventually returned home in July. He died Friday surrounded by his wife, Linda, and two children, Lori and Troy.

A celebration-of-life memorial has been scheduled for Sept. 29 at the Tacoma Country and Golf Club.

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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