Former MSU Football Coach, Trustee, George Perles Dies

Jan 8, 2020

George Perles, who played and coached football at Michigan State University and later served MSU as a Trustee, died on Tuesday.


A native Detroiter, Perles played football at Michigan State in the 1950’s, was an assistant coach at MSU, went on to coaching jobs in the National Football League, and became head coach of the Spartans in 1983. His team won the Rose Bowl game in 1988.

Perles parlayed his success into the dual jobs of coach and athletics director at MSU, but he clashed with then-president John DiBiaggio, who forced him to give up the AD post.

His coaching career ended with his firing in 1994. His career record at MSU was 73 wins, 62 losses, and 4 ties.

Perles was elected to the university’s board of trustees in 2006 and served two terms before his resignation for health reasons in November of 2018.

Tributes have included MSU president Samuel Stanley Jr., who said Perles “embodied what it means to be a Spartan.”

Dianne Byrum, who chairs of the MSU board of trustees, says “George had a heart of gold, a passion about him and all things MSU. I know the family has been struggling for the past couple of years with the advancement of his Parkinson’s Disease and the health issues that are associated with that.”

MSU trustee Brian Mosallam played football for Perles in the 1990's. The two grew close in the years after Mosallam's playing days. “You know, when I ran for the board of trustees, he helped me out," Mosallam remembers. "It was wonderful serving with him. Nothing really changed.”

Mark Wilson covered sports for TV stations in Lansing and Detroit while Perles was coach. “One thing I’ll always say about George Perles: he loved Michigan State," Wilson states. "There was never a doubt that he was a Spartan, and loved his school.”

Football coach Mark Dantonio says Perles “gave his life to Michigan State, all the way till the end.” Men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo called Perles “the truest Spartan I have ever met.”

George Perles was 85.