Former Washington State athletic director Sam Jankovich died Wednesday in Hayden Lake, Idaho. A funeral service will be held in his native Butte, Mont. He was 85.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Sam’s family at this time,” said Washington State athletic director Pat Chun in a university release. “Sam was one of the great administrators in college athletics history. He served WSU with tremendous distinction, as a football coach, administrator, and eventually as athletic director from 1976-83. His vision surrounding the football program, enlarging Martin Stadium and making conference opponents play in Pullman, was crucial to the program’s future success and kept WSU relevant in the then-Pac-10 Conference. His impact at WSU is still felt today.”

Jankovich began his tenure at Washington State in 1968 as an assistant on Jim Sweeney’s football staff. He served as an assistant to athletic director Ray Nagel from 1972-76. In that role he oversaw the Cougar Club, now known as the Cougar Athletic Fund, and doubled the organization’s membership and tripled fund-raising dollars.

In 1976, he replaced Nagel as WSU’s director of athletics, a position he held for the next seven years.

Jankovich was inducted into the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006.

In 1983, Jankovich was named athletic director at Miami, where the Hurricanes won three national football titles in his tenure under three different coaches.


One of those was former WSU coach Dennis Erickson, who won a national title with the Hurricanes in 1989.

“I got to know him very well,” Erickson, who played at Montana State in the mid-’60s when Jankovich was a defensive assistant, told the Miami Herald. “The reality is he was the one who helped make my career because he hired me at UM. When Jimmy left, Sam gave me the opportunity to get in one of the best programs in the country. If it wasn’t for him, who knows where my career would have been?”

At Miami, Jankovich also oversaw national championships in baseball, men’s and women’s tennis and women’s golf. He was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.

He later served as the general manager of the NFL’s New England Patriots.

Jankovich starred in football at Butte High and played for the University of Montana.