“The entire Big 12 Conference is saddened to hear of Donnie’s passing,” said Commissioner Bob Bowlsby. “He was a great friend to all of us and one that we will miss dearly. Our condolences to his wife, Sally, and their entire family.”
Duncan has touched numerous lives in many different capacities. Despite health problems in his later years, he continued providing input on college athletics. His career included contributions as a coach, athletic director, bowl executive, consultant and conference office administrator.
He was instrumental in the formation of the Big 12 Conference, and was one of the original staff members when the league began operations in 1996. He served as Senior Associate Commissioner and Director of Football Operations until his retirement in 2010. Duncan was involved in every aspect of football at the Big 12 including the regular season, officiating, bowls and television agreements. He was also responsible for developing the league’s Football Championship Game and served as its director from inception through the final game held in 2010.
Prior to joining the Big 12, Duncan spent 10 years as director of athletics at the University of Oklahoma. His tenure saw numerous achievements at the national level in many sports, including football. In 1988, Oklahoma became the first school in NCAA history to have its football team in a major bowl and its men's basketball team in the NCAA championship game in the same academic year. In 1992, the Sooner program was one of only two to send its football team to a bowl game, its men's basketball team to the NCAA tournament and its baseball team to the College World Series.
At Oklahoma, Duncan helped open the OU Academic Center in Memorial Stadium in 1992. The facility houses centers for academic counseling, computers, writing and reading plus tutorial rooms, individual study areas and a foreign language lab. Oklahoma led the conference in football graduation rate during his tenure as athletics director.
Duncan was influential in NCAA administration throughout his career. He served as chair of the NCAA Special Events Committee, chair of the NCAA Football Rules Committee and was a member of a special NCAA Research Committee that studied the possibilities of a football playoff. Duncan served on the College Football Association's Television Committee, which, in 1992, negotiated the most lucrative television contract, at that time, in college football history.
He began his football coaching career at the high school level in Texas, which later led him to the junior college ranks. His Navarro College (Corsicana, Texas) teams gained national rankings during his tenure. Duncan arrived at Oklahoma in 1973 as an assistant football coach, a position he held until he was named head coach at Iowa State in 1979. During his time at OU the Sooners won over 90-percent of their games, including two consecutive National Championships and six Big 8 crowns. At ISU, he guided the Cyclones for four seasons, leading his 1980 squad to a 7-4 record – a mark not topped at ISU until 2000. His teams beat in-state rival Iowa three years in a row from 1980-82 and knocked off then No. 8 Missouri, 34-13, in 1981.
Duncan moved from the coaching ranks to the bowl business in 1984 when he was named executive director of the Sun Bowl Association in El Paso, Texas, where he served for two years. His tenure at the Sun Bowl saw new records for revenue and attendance in 1984, only to break them again in 1985. In 1986, he served as executive director of the Gator Bowl where he stayed before accepting the director of athletics position at Oklahoma in September 1986.
Named one of Sporting News’ 10 most powerful people in college sports, he chaired the NCAA Special Events Committee, which oversaw all-star and bowl games. He also served on the research committee that studied the feasibility of a college football playoff.
The Celeste, Texas native was born on August 28, 1940. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, and also studied toward a doctorate in educational administration at Texas A&M-Commerce in Commerce, Texas.
At Austin College, Duncan lettered four years in football and baseball. He served as the football captain in 1961 and also garnered the Most Valuable Player Award and All-Texas College Team honors. In 1962 he received the Outstanding Athlete Award and was named Outstanding Senior Man. Duncan was voted into the Austin College Athletic Hall of Honor in 1971. . In 2004, he was presented with Austin College’s Coach Joe Spencer Award for Meritorious Service and Lifetime Achievement in Coaching.
After retiring from the Big 12, Duncan began consulting with several universities, providing advice and guidance on building their football programs.
He is survived by his wife, Sally (Treadway) who he was married to for 54 years, as well as his daughter Amy and son-in-law Patrick Reardon, plus two grandchildren - Lexie and Alli. He was preceded in death by his son, Mark.
///Big 12 Conference
My one Donnie Duncan encounter speaks to the man, not the coach or AD - Tulsa World