ST. GEORGE – The sports world lost a coaching icon Sunday afternoon as Sark Arslanian passed away at his home in St. George at the age of 92.
“Coach Sark,” as he was known throughout the region among his many contemporaries and former players, spent a good portion of his life in St. George, attending Dixie College and then later coaching football, baseball and track at the school. He also coached at Pine View High School in the twilight of his career in the late 1990s and spent his retirement in Utah’s Dixie.
“The entire Dixie State athletics family is very saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague Sark,” Dixie State athletic director Dr. Jason Boothe said. “Without Sark’s leadership and passion for Dixie, our athletic teams would not be where they are today. He was not only a great coach and leader, but a caring man as well. He will be missed.”
“Coach Sark” was born on February 4, 1924, in Fresno, Calif. He graduated from Granite High School in 1941, and enlisted with the Naval Air Corps, for which he served as an officer in the South Pacific until the end of World War II.
He graduated from Dixie College in 1949, where he played football and basketball, ran track, and served as class president. He went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah and a Master’s degree from Utah State University.
Arslanian began coaching at Central Junior High in Salt Lake City, and then continued at Union High School in Roosevelt, Utah. In 1955, he returned to St. George and became athletic director and head coach in football, track and baseball at Dixie College. His recruiting efforts nearly doubled the size of the college’s student body and served as a stabilizing factor for the institution.
He left behind a nationally-ranked team at Dixie College to take over as head football coach at Weber State College in 1965, where his teams were nationally-ranked. From 1973-82, he served as head football coach at Colorado State University, then following his time in Fort Collins, Arslanian became a professional scout for the Canadian Football and United States Football leagues.
Arslanian coached professional teams in Milan, Italy, and Tokyo, Japan, and introduced American football in his family’s home land of Armenia. After his retirement, he coached high school football teams in Colorado, Idaho and at Pine View. Coach Sark is still noted as one of the most successful coaches in NCAA history.
Arslanian was inducted into the Dixie State University Hall of Fame in 1999, and was part of the inaugural Dixie State Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2007. On Sept. 14, 2013, the football field inside Legend Solar Stadium (formerly known as Hansen Stadium) was renamed Sark Arslanian Field in his honor for his contributions and achievements during his tenure at DSU. The honor also coincided with the 50th-Anniversary of the 1963 Dixie College Football team, which was the first undefeated and untied football team in the program’s storied history.
At Colorado State, he took over a program in shambles and led them to immediate respectability.
“We mourn the passing of Sark Arslanian and offer our sincere condolences to his family,” said Joe Parker, CSU’s Director of Athletics. “He was a loyal Ram who served our institution admirably as head football coach and authored one of the most successful seasons in school history in 1977.”
During his tenure as head coach at CSU, Arslanian defeated Wyoming five times and his 1977 team received votes in the AP Top 25 poll. The Rams were 9-2-1 in 1977 and were one of the top teams in the Western Athletic Conference.
After four winning seasons, including a 6-4-1 mark in 1980, his CSU coaching tenure ended Oct. 20, 1981.
Tom Ehlers, CSU’s Director of Football Operations, was recruited by Coach Arslanian and played for him in his first two seasons as a Ram.
“I am saddened, but I am also reminded of Coach’s passion for football, life, friends and family,” Ehlers said. “He was always so kind to me, and so happy to talk about all the players and games from his time here. He changed my life by bringing me to Colorado State in 1980, and he changed the lives of many others throughout the years. He was such a great coach and an even better person.”
In addition, he is enshrined in the Pop Warner National Hall of Fame, Weber State Athletic Hall of Fame, Utah Sports Hall of Fame, and the All-American Football Foundation honor roll.
Funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days.
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