Former University of Maine quarterback and assistant football coach Bob Pickett died Tuesday night after being struck by a car while walking in Florida.
He was 75.
Pickett, an Augusta native, was the head football coach at the University of Massachusetts from 1978 to 1983 and compiled a 36-28 record while leading the Minutemen to four Yankee Conference championships.
Before taking over for Old Town native Dick MacPherson at UMass, he had spent seven seasons as the defensive coordinator under MacPherson.
His coaching career was highlighted by UMass’ first berth in an NCAA Division I-AA championship game in 1978 where the Minutemen lost to Florida A&M 35-28 in the Pioneer Bowl at Wichita Falls, Texas.
Pickett was named coach of the year that season by the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston and the Eastern College Athletic Conference. His team was named the ECAC team of the year.
After concluding his coaching career, Pickett became associate athletic director at UMass until retiring in 1997. He was the color commentator for radio broadcasts of UMass football games from 1998 to 2003.
Pickett was an outstanding athlete at Cony High School in Augusta and then went on to the University of Maine, where he was a wing-T quarterback and defensive back.
He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Maine and went on to serve as the football and basketball coach at Laconia (N.H.) High School and then as the football coach at Portsmouth (N.H.) High. He won three state championships at the two schools and was a two-time New Hampshire coach of the year.
He returned to his alma mater in 1965 and served as an assistant coach until he left for UMass in 1971.
“I owe a great deal to him,” said Bangor native and former UMass linebacker and co-captain Peter McCarty. “He meant a lot to me. He gave me a great opportunity to have a great experience in college.
“He was a very concerned individual and, being from Maine, he kept a close eye on me.”
Pickett was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach when McCarty was at UMass.
He recruited McCarty out of Bangor High School.
“He was an outstanding recruiter,” said McCarty whose parents received Pickett’s assurance that their son would earn a degree.
“He was a great man. I wish my sons could play for him. He always had time for you.”
Carl “Stump” Merrill called Pickett a “great guy” who was “very interested in college athletics. He will be missed.”
Walter Abbott played with Pickett at Maine and also coached with him.
“He was very devoted to athletics. He was soft-spoken and very friendly,” said Abbott. “He did a great job as a high school coach and coached two [great] players at Laconia who wound up at Maine: [quarterback] Dick Devarney and [tackle] Ernie Smith.”
Pickett was inducted into the Maine State Hall of Fame in 2001 and had served as president of the Hall in recent years.
“He was a great representative of the state of Maine,” said former Maine athletic director Stu Haskell. “He was an outstanding athlete, a good student and a terrific coach. He was outstanding in every way. He was a very fine person and a good leader.”
“He was a wonderful guy,” said Stu Infantine, secretary of the Maine Sports Hall of Fame. “He was a great ambassador for the Maine Sports Hall of Fame. I think people just gravitated to his style of leadership.”
John McCutcheon, the athletic director at UMass, said in a story on the UMass Web site, “It is a tremendous loss for the UMass athletic community and the Minuteman football program. Bob was a vital part of the UMass program or more than four decades in a variety of roles. He was still a presence at several games every year including this past season. He will be sorely missed.”
Pickett is survived by his wife, Sylvia, and children Robbin, Debbie and Judith.