Heart, not ice water dousing, is what led to Allen's death

January 03, 1991|By John Woolard | John Woolard,Knight-Ridder

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Preliminary results from a private autopsy show that football coach George Allen died from a heart spasm brought on by arrhythmia, and that his death was not connected to an ice-water dousing he received Nov. 17 after his Long Beach State team defeated Nevada-Las Vegas to clinch a winning season.

Allen, winner of three NFL Coach of the Year awards who revitalized the floundering Long Beach State football program during the 1990 season, died unexpectedly at his home Monday at the age of 72.

"His death was totally unrelated to any bout with pneumonia or any previous illness," Allen's son, Bruce, said in a prepared statement. "A specialist told us that the cause of death was a very rare coronary spasm."

Allen had said recently that he hadn't felt well since being drenched by his players after the win over UNLV in the season's final game.

However, Allen's longtime attorney, Tony Capozzola, said the autopsy results released yesterday discounted the incident as a factor in Allen's death.

"The examination revealed that it was caused by arrhythmia [an alternation in the rhythm of the heartbeat]," Capozzola said. "As far as I knew, he didn't have any heart problems. But in my opinion, after talking to medical authorities, it did not have anything to do with pouring the cold liquid on him during the victory celebration."

At Long Beach State yesterday, athletic director Corey Johnson assembled Allen's former staff and said he would not appoint an interim coach, nor make any decision regarding a new coach, for at least another week.

"We mainly discussed details of the funeral. We'll have a bus for any of the players who want to go from school," Johnson said.

"I did say if anyone on the staff was interested in becoming head coach to let me know by Friday. Then I'll sit down with the president [Curtis L. McCray] and the provost [Karl Anatol] next week at the NCAA convention, and decide where we're at, and what we want to do."

Johnson estimated the athletic department received more than 200 phone calls yesterday expressing condolences at Allen's death.

The Exchange Club of Long Beach, which had honored Allen as its California Coach of the Year on Dec. 19, voted unanimously to recommend to McCray that the 49ers' football practice facility be named after Allen.

Capozzola, for his part, has said he will mount a concerted effort to get Allen voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

"He was an original, he was a John Wayne-type," Capozzola said. "The simple fact is, his record is better than anybody in the Hall of Fame with over 100 victories. So the question is, why isn't he in there?"

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