Big Lead Sports Bar


RIP, Kaye Cowher

By now I suppose you've heard the very sad news out of North Carolina, where Kaye Cowher, 54-year-old wife of former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, passed away as a result of skin cancer.

When thinking about the Cowhers as a family, I always marveled at how they seemed to be such a normal, functioning unit in an era when NFL coaches are practically expected to lead chaotic family lives. You know the storyline all too well by now. While dad is busy watching film 21 hours a day, his kids begin to make poor decisions. Some coaches have dealt with children who have drug problems. Others have children who were in prison. And in the worst case scenario, some have children who fall into both categories.

The Cowher family was different. It was almost like the plot to a sitcom. A super-intense pro football coach gets in the face of 350-pound defensive linemen by day, and watches girls' high school basketball games with his all-female household by night. Pitch that to any network and with the right cast, you've got a home run. But this was no TV show. It was the real deal.

Although coaching was his career and he excelled at it, I never got the impression that football was Bill's entire reason for being, because of his love for Kaye and their daughters. Just how important were they to him? So much that he walked away from a high-paying job he probably could've had for life in exchange for a completely different, family-centic existence in his wife's home state of North Carolina. And for that, I always admired him.

Kaye met Bill while at North Carolina State in 1976, and they were married five years later in 1981, when Bill was a member of the Cleveland Browns. 11 years later, he would become the heir apparent to Hall of Famer Chuck Noll as the newest head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Throughout Bill's career, Kaye always had a pleasant presence in Pittsburgh as a woman who supported her husband and let him follow his dream, which is summarized so poetically in the photo above.

It is unknown exactly when Kaye Cowher came down with skin cancer, which is a storyline nearly unbelievable in a day and age when everybody knows everything. But I'm virtually certain that her illness would explain Bill's longer-than-anticipated return to the pro football coaching ranks. 

Words can't express how badly I feel for Bill and all of the Cowhers at a time like this, but I know the family will have immeasurable support from the card-carrying members of Steeler Nation. Rest in peace, Kaye Cowher.


jmarinara said...

A sad day.

Spot on description of the family, they were really a class act.

Well Done Don.

Erik Selz said...

Don -

Thanks for that well-written tribute.

As crushed as I was when the Steelers lost the 95 Super Bowl, the quick postgame chat between Kaye, Bill, and their kids, caught on camera, on the field, provided welcome and immediate perspective. I hope the entirety of Steeler Nation - including a certain #7 who has had some choice words for Coach Cowher since his departure from Pittsburgh - pays respects in the days to come.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

I was unaware she was sick and I was very shocked to see on the PG's site Saturday morning that she'd passed away. Such terrible news, so young really.

Hopefully, the media can give Bill some privacy and respect and not ask him when he's returning to the sidelines.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

Skin cancer's not something you die of suddenly, they were probably trying to keep this under wraps the past few years.

But we probably do know why he retired from coaching the Steelers and/or didn't really take any other job offers seriously.

Keep your head up Coach! Steeler Nation still has love for ya!

RIP Mrs. Cowher.