Larry Kramer, the man who guided Austin College to its lone football championship following an All-America career at Nebraska, passed away on Saturday at the age of 71.

Larry Kramer, the man who guided Austin College to its lone football championship following an All-America career at Nebraska, passed away on Saturday at the age of 71.


"Anytime you lose someone like Coach Kramer, for what he did for AC, it’s like losing family," said Austin College athletic director David Norman, who played for Kramer from 1979-82 and was the ’Roos head coach from 1994-2005. "We’re going to remember a remarkable man. We lost a great person in our history but his name and legacy will live on."


Kramer went 127-120-5 with four teams over 28 seasons as a head coach, including a 10-year stretch in Sherman. He arrived at Austin College in 1973 after beginning his career with four years at McCook Junior College in Nebraska and then two more at Southern Oregon.


In his time at Austin College, Kramer’s record of 50-43-6 is second behind only the 59 victories of his successor, Mel Tjeerdsma.


During his final four years with the ’Roos, Kramer’s record was 35-7-1. Austin College started the stretch with a 9-2 record, conference title and first-round playoff loss. The ’Roos went 8-2 the next season before winning a share of the national championship in 1981. Kramer went 8-2 in his final year at Austin College, with both losses coming against conference champ Sul Ross State.


"It took him several years to even have a winning record. He’s a great example of perseverance and patience and all of those things," said Norman, whose father was an assistant under Kramer for two seasons. "Coach Kramer was the reason I wanted to coach. He was the reason I wanted to come back and coach at Austin College."


Kramer was the Texas Intercollegiate Athletic Association Coach of the Year in 1979 and 1981 when Austin College was the conference champion, the latter sharing the top spot with Sul Ross State.


"He turned that program around. Before he got there in the 70s we were pretty much a doormat," said former Sherman mayor Bill Magers, whose first two seasons were Kramer’s last at AC. "We would run through a brick wall for him. He’s the coach every guy wanted to play for."


The ’Roos went 11-1-1 in 1981, earning a share of the NAIA Division II crown after it tied Concordia 24-24. Gene Branum made a 57-yard field goal with 1:22 left in the contest to help Austin College pull even to get a piece of the title.


"Most of the team wanted to go for it. Kramer turned to Branum and asked if he could make. He said ‘I can,’" said Magers, who was a freshman on that squad. "That was the kind of guy Kramer was. He trusted his players."


That team set school marks for most wins, longest winning streak (10 games), longest unbeaten streak (11 games), and most passing yards in a single season (2,736).


Emporia State hired Kramer, then just 40 years old, away from Austin College a year later.


"We are losing a brilliant coach and an outstanding member of our college community," Austin College athletic director Bob Mason told the Associated Press when Kramer’s hire was announced on New Year’s Eve in 1982. "The success achieved through our football program as a result of coach Kramer, his staff, and the student-athletes has brought great distinction and visibility to AC these past few years."


In the same article, Kramer said he regretted leaving but the move offered "good professional advancement."


After leaving Austin College, Kramer became the second-winningest coach at Emporia State, compiling a 71-54 record in 12 seasons — highlighted by an 11-2 mark and NAIA championship game appearance in 1989.


Kramer spent his final three years coaching as a Kansas State assistant under his former offensive coordinator at Austin College, Bill Snyder, until Kramer retired in 1997.


Among his former players include University of North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora and former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Leon Lett.


He received the Joe Spencer Award from Austin College in 2003, and has been inducted into both the Austin College and Emporia State Halls of Honor and the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame. The 1981 AC football team was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001 in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the program’s greatest achievement.


"He was a unique man who molded us as young men," Norman said. "You got to know him better after you played. He drew the line in the sand for a player but then he became your best friend."


A native of Austin, Minn., Kramer was a left tackle at the University of Nebraska and earned All-Big 8 and first-team All-America honors as a senior in 1964. He earned his master’s degree from the school two years later. Kramer signed a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings after his final season and a year after the Baltimore Colts drafted him after his junior campaign.


He is survived by his wife, Sandra, four children and several grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.