UCLA Mourns Loss of Bill McGovern
Successful football player and coach served as Bruins' defensive coordinator in 2022
June 1, 2023
Bill McGovern, a highly decorated college football player and successful defensive football coach possessing almost 40 years of college and NFL experience, passed away Tuesday morning at his California home surrounded by family, following a battle with cancer. He was 60.
McGovern joined Chip Kelly's coaching staff as UCLA's defensive coordinator in February 2022. An All-America selection at defensive back as a collegian at Holy Cross, McGovern spent eight of the previous nine years prior to coming to UCLA at the professional level with the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, where he guided several highly rated defensive units. In addition to holding down the defensive coordinator position with the Bruins, he also served in that capacity with Boston College and the University of Massachusetts.
McGovern's work at the college level included a 13-year stretch at Boston College, where he served as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach from 2000-12. The Eagles advanced to a bowl game in each of his first 11 seasons on the Heights, compiling an 8-3 record in those postseason contests. From 2001-08, BC defeated Notre Dame six straight times. The Eagles, who soared to as high as No. 2 in the national polls during McGovern's tenure, posted a school-record-tying 11 wins during the 2007 season, BC's most since 1940.
During his time at BC, McGovern mentored two Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Defensive Players of the Year in Luke Kuechly (2011) and Mark Herzlich (2008). Kuechly set the program's career mark for most tackles (532) and an NCAA record for most average tackles per game over a career (14.0). Kuechly also set an ACC record for most tackles in a season (191) and went on to win the 2011 Butkus Award, the Rotary Lombardi Award, the Bronko Nagurski Award and the Lott IMPACT Trophy that season. Both players earned first-team All-ACC honors and went on to enjoy successful NFL careers. BC defensive lineman B.J. Raji (2009) and Kuechly (2012) each became first-round NFL draft choices. Kuechly, Herzlich, linebacker Vinny Ciurciu (2001, 2002), linebacker Brian Flores (2001-03) and linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar (2005-07) all went on to make Super Bowl appearances.
From 1997-99, McGovern coached defensive backs at the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt advanced to the Liberty Bowl in 1997 and, in 1999, the Panthers defeated Notre Dame in Pitt Stadium's final game. Prior to serving as defensive backs coach at Boston College from 1994-96, McGovern served as defensive coordinator at UMass in 1993. He worked with the defensive backs at his alma mater, Holy Cross, in 1991 and 1992, following an initial stint at UMass as defensive backs coach from 1988-1990. McGovern embarked on his coaching journey in 1985 as freshman football coach at the University of Pennsylvania and then worked as an assistant defensive backs coach at Holy Cross in 1986 and 1987.
A member of the Holy Cross Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor, McGovern set a Division I-AA single-season record with 11 interceptions as a senior in 1984. His total of 24 career interceptions while a four-year starter at defensive back for the Crusaders tied a Division I-AA record. His teams combined to record a 31-13-1 mark and made the school's first appearance in the Division I-AA playoffs. McGovern was named a consensus first-team All-American in 1984 and was a two-time Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference first-team selection. He is currently listed on the ballot as a candidate for the College Football Hall of Fame.
McGovern is survived by his wife, Colleen, and daughters Amanda, Delainey and Mackenzie. Plans for memorial services are pending at this current time.
STATEMENT FROM THE MCGOVERN FAMILY: "Early this morning we said goodbye to our beloved father and husband Bill after his long and difficult battle with cancer came to an end and today, we would like to thank the entire UCLA community for all of the love and support you gave to Bill and our entire family during this very difficult struggle. In particular, the McGovern family would like to thank UCLA head football coach Chip Kelly and his wife Jill as well as all of the players, coaches, trainers, and support staff of the UCLA football program and their families. It was the honor of Bill's coaching career to be the defensive coordinator for the UCLA Bruins and this past season was one of the highlights of Bill's coaching career. We are so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of such a historic athletic tradition and, more importantly, we could not have made it through this past year without the love and prayers of our UCLA family. The McGovern family is so grateful and thankful to all of you for your help during this difficult time and we will be indebted to you all forever. Thank you so much and we will cherish the wonderful memories we have of UCLA and our UCLA football family for the rest of our lives."