ANNAPOLIS - Former Naval Academy athletic director Capt. J.O. (Bo) Coppedge died on Wednesday at the Ginger Cover Health Center. He was 88.
Coppedge, who was the Director of Athletics at the Naval Academy from 1968 to 1988, oversaw unprecedented growth in the Naval Academy's athletic department and was the first civilian to run the athletic department after he retired from active duty.
He was a 1946 graduate of the Naval Academy where he was an offensive tackle and a member of the wrestling team and a former sub commander, who famously brought his diesel-electric submarine from the deep to the surface in 1960 so his crew on the USS Tang could listen to the Army-Navy football game, a game that Navy won 17-12.
"It is with heartfelt sadness to learn of the passing of Bo," said current Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk. "Everyone in the Naval Academy Athletic Association expresses their sincere condolences to the Coppedge family. We hold a special appreciation for an incredible man who touched so many lives in such a magnificent way throughout his distinguished career. Bo was an icon within intercollegiate athletic circles and would always exude the values of the Academy he loved through his outgoing and embracing personality. To know Bo was to love Bo. We still miss his lovely wife Ann, and now Bo's big smile, sense of humor, favorite anecdotes, along with his gentle kindness and friendship with so many will be a memory we will always cherish."
Coppedge served on the destroyers CHEVALIER AND COLLETT and had five years of sea duty in the submarines U.S.S. DIODON and U.S.S. BASHAW. In August 1954, Coppedge returned to the Naval Academy as a member of the Physical Education staff and coached the plebe football team to a 15-4 record.
Coppedge served as Executive Officer of the U.S.S. GUDGEON in which he participated in the first circumnavigation of the world by a U.S. submarine in 1957-58. He then commanded the U.S.S. Tang for two years before serving for one year in the Operations Division on the Staff of the Commander Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet.
Coppedge then served as the athletic director at the Naval War College, while also earning a master's degree in International Relations from George Washington. He next worked in the Pentagon in the Undersea Warfare Division in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and later served as Chief of Staff Officer and Operations Officer for Commander Submarine Squadron Six, and was Commander of Submarine Division 62.
Coppedge was awarded the World War II Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, China Service Medal (Extended), Navy Occupation Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star, Korean Service Medal and the United Nations Service Medal.
Coppedge was hired as the athletic director in 1968 as an active duty captain and retired from active duty in 1970 after 25 years of service. He earned the Navy Distinguished Public Service Medal in 1979, which is the highest award the Secretary of the Navy can bestow on a non-federal employee.
In his 20 years as the Director of Athletics at Navy, the Midshipmen went to three bowl games (the 1978 Holiday Bowl, the 1980 Garden State Bowl and the 1981 Liberty Bowl) and appeared in three NCAA Men's Basketball Tournaments (1985, 1986 and 1987), including the 1986 Navy Basketball team that made it to the Elite 8 and is widely considered the greatest basketball team in school history and was led by Player of the Year David Robinson. The Midshipmen produced 37 All-Americans in Coppedge's tenure and he added 12 varsity sports to the athletic department.
Coppedge served as chairman of the NCAA Classification Committee, chairman of the NCAA Television Committee and chairman of the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship Committee.
As a midshipman he lettered in football and wrestling. He played both ways at tackle in football and helped lead Navy to a 7-1-1 record in 1945. As a wrestler, he was a member of two Eastern Championship teams.
Plans for services are incomplete. Visitation likely will be held next week at the Taylor Funeral Home in Annapolis followed by services at the Naval Academy.