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OSU mourns passing of 'The Great Pumpkin'
Former Oregon State football coach Dee Andros participates in a ceremony on Oct. 5, 2002, honoring the 1967 Giant Killers. AP File Photo.

PORTLAND - His Beavers were called the "Giant Killers" for knocking off USC and O.J. Simpson in 1967.

But the nickname that stuck to revered Oregon State football coach Dee Andros was "The Great Pumpkin," for his ample girth, round face and bright orange jacket. Andros, an Oregon State football icon, died at his Corvallis home Wednesday at age 79.

He suffered from diabetes and had had several strokes, said Hal Cowan, OSU's sports information director.

Andros endeared himself to a decade of Beaver fans by running onto the field ahead of his team. Later, when he lost weight following open-heart surgery, he joked that a better monicker might be "The Little Squash."

Although there were hard times in his coaching years - his record was 51-64-1 - he presided over some of the school's biggest wins and beat the University of Oregon in nine of 11 "Civil War" contests.

In Oregon, that counts for a lot.

Andros coached the Beavers from 1965 to 1975 and continued as athletic director until he retired in 1985.

University of Kentucky football coach Rich Brooks, who was an assistant coach at OSU under Andros from 1965 to 1969 and again in 1973, spoke fondly of him Wednesday from Lexington, Ky.

"He was a very emotional coach who could prepare a team emotionally as well as anyone I've ever been around. He truly loved his players," said Brooks.

"I talked to Dee and Lu (his wife) about three weeks ago. I knew he was failing but I didn't think it would be this fast. I understand his memorial is going to be on Halloween. The Great Pumpkin. That's appropriate, I think. The state of Oregon is losing a heck of a guy. He's a legend."

Cowan said he considered Andros a mentor.

"It's a tremendous loss," said Cowan. "He's a great ambassador for Oregon sports. I don't think there's any name more associated with Oregon State football than Andros'."

He was famous for saying, before the annual Oregon-Oregon State game: "The Ducks make my stomach hurt, and when Great Pumpkin's stomach hurts, I hurt all over."

"Dee is one of the reasons why people love Oregon State so much," said Mike Riley, OSU's current football coach. "We are all proud to represent a university and team that Coach Andros has been associated with for 40 years."

Andros was inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Hall of Fame and the Oregon State University Sports Hall of Fame in 1991.

A native Oklahoman, Andros was a lineman on Oklahoma teams coached by Hall of Famer Bud Wilkinson. He went on to be an assistant coach under Wilkinson.

Andros was known for his superstitions.

Veteran sportscaster Bob Blackburn recalled on an earlier occasion rushing to Indiana to announce an OSU game with Purdue and didn't have time to change out of a tuxedo from a formal event the night before.

"Upon seeing me in the tux, Andros said that if Oregon State won the game, I would have to wear the tux for the remainder of the season," Blackburn was quoted as saying in an old Orange County Register column. "As luck would have it, Oregon State, a 14-point underdog, upset Purdue. And, of course I had to wear the tux for the next seven games."

Andros, whose full name was Demosthenes Konstandies Andrecopoulos, won a bronze star for his service with the Marines on Iwo Jima in World War II. He watched the famed flag-raising there.

Most Beaver fans consider the 1967 USC win Oregon State's biggest ever.

Even before the Trojans came to town, the Beavers had beaten second-ranked Purdue and tied highly ranked UCLA.

The Beavers kicked a clutch field goal in the second quarter to win 3-0.

It was USC's only loss of the year. The Trojans won the national championship by beating Indiana in the Rose Bowl.

Andros' fans and followers didn't drop off after retirement.

Recently a package arrived containing a medal that read, "Operation Iraqi Freedom," and a signed photo of Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.

"To Coach Andros - husband, father, Marine, American patriot," Franks wrote. "A real champion. Here's to your honor and valor. I salute you."

Jud Blakely, a 1965 OSU graduate researching the famed "Giant Killers" team, had heard Andros was in poor health, and wanted the accolades to pour in, so he contacted Franks.

Details for a memorial service are pending. Survivors include his wife Luella, daughter Jeanna and grandson Nicky.

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