Bob Wagner was a prominent American college football coach known for his contributions to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa football program and his extensive coaching career. Let’s explore the life and career of Bob Wagner, a figure who left a lasting impact on the world of college football.
Early Life and Education
Bob Wagner was born on May 16, 1947. He pursued higher education at Wittenberg University, where he graduated in 1969. This marked the beginning of his journey into the world of football coaching.
High School and Early College Coaching
Wagner’s coaching career began at Gallipolis High School in Ohio in 1969, where he served as an assistant coach. In 1971, he took on the role of head coach at River View High School in Warsaw, Ohio. During his tenure, he led the team to its then-best season ever with an 8–2 record. After one season at River View, Wagner transitioned to the collegiate level, becoming the defensive coordinator at Muskingum University in 1972.
College Coaching Journey
In 1975, Wagner made a significant move in his coaching career by joining The College of Wooster as an assistant coach. However, his big break came in 1976 when he became an assistant at the University of Washington under head coach Don James. This experience allowed him to learn from one of the coaching greats.
Wagner’s connection with the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa began in 1977 when he joined the coaching staff as an assistant under head coach Larry Price. Over the years, he climbed the coaching ranks and was eventually promoted to defensive coordinator under Dick Tomey in 1983.
Head Coach of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Wagner’s most notable coaching achievement came in 1987 when he assumed the position of head coach at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. He took over from Dick Tomey, who had left to become the head coach at the University of Arizona. Under Wagner’s leadership, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors achieved significant success, including their first Western Athletic Conference (WAC) title in 1992. Notably, his offensive coordinator during this time was the future Georgia Tech head coach, Paul Johnson.
Despite his overall success, Wagner’s coaching tenure at Hawaiʻi came to an end after a 4–8 season in 1995. He was succeeded by former Bill Walsh assistant, Fred von Appen.
Later Coaching and Administrative Roles
After a brief hiatus from coaching, Wagner returned to the field in 1997. He initially accepted the position of defensive coordinator at Texas Christian University (TCU) under new head coach Dennis Franchione. However, a call from his mentor, Dick Tomey, led him to join the coaching staff at the University of Arizona, where he coached inside linebackers.
Wagner’s involvement in college football extended beyond coaching. He served as the athletic director for Kamehameha Schools-Hawaii on the Big Island for a decade, from 2002 to 2012. In this role, he contributed to the development of sports programs and the athletic community in Hawaii.
Legacy and Passing
Bob Wagner made significant contributions to the world of college football, leaving a lasting legacy. He passed away at his residence in Hawaii on October 4, 2023, at the age of 76. Wagner’s dedication to coaching and his impact on the football community will be remembered by those who had the privilege of working with him and witnessing his achievements on the field.