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Joe Tiller

Joe Tiller is best known for his years as head coach at Purdue.

LARAMIE, Wyo. — Funeral services have been scheduled for former Wyoming head football coach Joe Tiller, who passed away Saturday morning at the age of 74 in Buffalo, Wyoming.

There will be a viewing at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Buffalo on Oct. 10 from 1 to 7 p.m. That will be followed by a rosary and time for guests to share memories of Tiller. A funeral mass will be held on Oct. 11 at 11 a.m., also at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Buffalo.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Joe Tiller’s name to the Cowboy Carousel Center in Buffalo, Wyoming. It is a project that Tiller and his wife Arnette had been involved with for many years, and the Fabry Support & Information Group, to help Fabry patients with the cost of treatments. 

Born in Toledo, Ohio, Tiller played football for Montana State, where he was a star lineman. He began his coaching career at his alma mater under Jim Sweeney. 

In 1998, Tiller was inducted into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame. He would later become Purdue's all-time wins leader as head football coach with a record of 87-62 from 1997 to 2008. 

Tiller became the head coach at Wyoming in December 1990. It would be his first head-coaching position at the collegiate level. He guided the Wyoming Cowboys through one of their most successful periods in school history from the 1991 through 1996 seasons. In his third season as head coach, Tiller’s Cowboys captured a share of the 1993 Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Championship and appeared in the Copper Bowl.

In 1996, Wyoming finished with a 10-2 record, had the nation’s longest winning streak and won the WAC Pacific Division, earning a spot in the inaugural WAC Championship Game. The Cowboys concluded the ’96 season ranked 22nd in the national polls, and reached a high ranking of No. 15 in the Coaches Poll that season. Tiller’s ’96 Cowboys also led the nation in passing offense and featured the Biletnikoff Award winner in Marcus Harris, who set the NCAA record for career receiving yards.

Tiller was named the WAC Coach of the Year in 1996 and was named the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Region Coach of the Year in 1993 and ’96. Tiller would conclude his time as head coach of the Cowboys with a 39-30-1 (.564) record in six seasons.

Prior to becoming Wyoming’s head coach, Tiller had served as the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator and offensive line coach for the 1987 and ‘88 seasons under then head coach Paul Roach. The ‘87 and ‘88 Cowboys won back-to-back WAC titles, went undefeated in conference play both seasons and earned consecutive trips to the Holiday Bowl. The 1987 Cowboys reached a high ranking of No. 21 during the season, while the ‘88 Cowboys were ranked as high as 10th and finished the season ranked 20th.

Tiller spent two years (1989 and ‘90) as the offensive coordinator at Washington State between his times as an assistant coach and head coach at Wyoming.

“We had an opportunity to build a very special football program here at Wyoming,” said former Wyoming head football coach and athletics director Paul Roach, who hired Tiller for his first head-coaching position. “Working with Joe here in the late 80s and early 90s, I grew to have a great appreciation for his talents as a coach. That combined with his experience at numerous other universities put him in a great position to be a head coach and that is why I asked him to come back to Wyoming and take over our program. He exemplified great character as a person and a coach. Through the years, we developed a great friendship. Joe had a major influence on the young men who played for him and the men who worked with him. He will be missed by many, and we want his family to know just how much he meant to so many people.”

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