Joe Tiller
Biographical details
Born(1942-12-07)December 7, 1942
Toledo, Ohio, U.S.
DiedSeptember 30, 2017(2017-09-30) (aged 74)
Buffalo, Wyoming, U.S.
Playing career
1961–1963Montana State
1964Calgary Stampeders
Position(s)Offensive tackle
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1965–1970Montana State (OL/DL)
1971Washington State (DL)
1972–1973Washington State (OC/OL)
1974–1982Calgary Stampeders (assistant)
1976Calgary Stampeders (interim HC)
1983–1986Purdue (AHC/DC/DL)
1987–1988Wyoming (OC/OL)
1989–1990Washington State (AHC/OC/OL)
Head coaching record
Overall126–92–1 (college)
2–3–1 (CFL)
Accomplishments and honors
1 WAC (1993)
1 Big Ten (2000)
1 WAC Pacific Division (1996)
Big Ten Coach of the Year (1997)

Joseph Henry Tiller (December 7, 1942 – September 30, 2017) was an American football player and coach. He was the head coach at the University of Wyoming from 1991 to 1996 and Purdue University from 1997 to 2008, with a career record of 126–92–1 (.578). Tiller was known as one of the innovators of the spread offense.

Early life and playing career

Born and raised in Toledo, Ohio,[1] Tiller attended Rogers High School.[2] Upon his high school graduation, he attended Montana State University in Bozeman, where he played football for the Bobcats under head coaches Herb Agocs and Jim Sweeney, and was a member of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity. As a senior in 1963,[3] Tiller was named an Honorable Mention All-American and was invited to the East–West Shrine Game.[4]

Tiller was selected in the 1964 AFL draft by the Boston Patriots;[5] he was the 140th pick overall (18th round) but chose to sign with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League.[6] After one season in the CFL, he returned to Montana State to begin his coaching career under Sweeney.

Coaching career

Early career

Tiller's first coaching job came in 1964, when he was a student assistant for Montana State.[2] The following year, he was promoted to full-time assistant coach, working with offensive and defensive lineman, as well as an instructor in physical education.[2] Sweeney left after the 1967 season and Tiller was retained by new head coach Tom Parac.

In 1971, Tiller rejoined Sweeney as the defensive line coach at Washington State in Pullman.[6] In 1972, he was promoted to offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. During the 1973 season, he helped Andrew Jones to a season where he ran for 1,059 yards with 9 TD and averaged 96.3 rushing YPG.[7]

In 1974, Tiller returned to the Calgary Stampeders as an assistant coach and spent the next eight seasons in the Calgary organization; he served as the interim head coach for the final six weeks of the 1976 season, posting a 2–3–1 (.417) record and the team finished at 2–12–2 (.188). He returned to the front office through 1982.

In 1983, Tiller became defensive coordinator at Purdue under head coach Leon Burtnett. Guided by junior quarterback Jim Everett, the 1984 team became the first in school history to defeat Notre Dame, Michigan, and Ohio State in the same season. Finishing 7–4 in the regular season, the Boilermakers accepted an invitation to play in the Peach Bowl, where they were defeated by Virginia, 27–24. Tiller was let go at the end of the 1986 season when Burtnett resigned.

Taking over as the offensive coordinator at Wyoming in 1987, where Craig Burnett threw for 3,131 yards with 21 TD vs 16 INT and Gerald Abraham ran for 1,305 yards with 13 TD. In 1988, Randy Welniak threw for 2,791 yards with 21 TD vs 11 INT and ran for 415 yards with 16 TD. RB Dabby Dawson ran for 1,119 yards and 9 TD as well.

As offensive coordinator in 1989 at Washington State under head coach Mike Price, he helped RB Steve Broussard to 1,237 yards with 13 TD. Quarterbacks, Aaron Garcia and Brad Gossen combined to throw for 2,963 yards with 20 TD vs 16 INT. In 1990, quarterbacks Brad Gossen and Drew Bledsoe combined to throw for 2,514 yards with 15 TD vs 7 INT.

Wyoming (1991–1996)

Tiller began his head coaching career at Wyoming in 1991, when he was hired to replace Paul Roach, who was stepping down as football coach but remained as the athletic director.[8] Tiller received a 5-year contract with a base salary of $65,000.[8] During his time as head coach, Tiller lead the Cowboys to a 39–30–1 (.564) record and one bowl appearance in six years. His best team was his final season in 1996, which notched a 10–2 record (7–1 in WAC play winning the Pacific Division[9]), but was left out of a bowl after losing to BYU in the inaugural WAC Championship game—to date, the last team to finish ranked in a major poll and not receive a bowl invitation while eligible.

He continued to provide stellar quarterback and running back play despite some subpar records during his tenure at Wyoming.

Purdue (1997–2008)

On the strength of his final season at Wyoming, Tiller was hired by Purdue University in 1997.[10] Tiller inherited a program that had only had five winning seasons in the previous 18 years. However, the Boilermakers made an immediate splash in the second game of his rookie season with a nationally televised upset of Notre Dame. Tiller led the Boilermakers to ten bowl berths in twelve years, most notably the 2001 Rose Bowl—their first major-bowl appearance since the Bob Griese-led Boilermakers went to the 1967 Rose Bowl, and only the second major-bowl appearance in school history. The 2000 season also saw the Boilers' first Big Ten title in 33 years.

Prior to Tiller's tenure as head coach, Purdue had played in only five bowl games, most recently in 1984 when he was the defensive coordinator. In 2008 against Central Michigan, Tiller won his 85th game at Purdue to become the winningest coach in school history, topping the previous mark set by Jack Mollenkopf (1956–1969).[11] Tiller's "basketball on grass" offense, originated by legendary high school coach Jack Neumeier, and learned from Tiller's coaching colleagues Jack Elway and Dennis Erickson, was well renowned for its ability to score and score effectively, befuddling opposing defenses. This was especially the case when quarterback Drew Brees led the team from 1997 to 2000. His Purdue squads were shut out only once, by Penn State, in a 12–0 defeat at Ross–Ade Stadium on October 28, 2006.

Tiller retired following the 2008 season and was succeeded by former Eastern Kentucky University head coach Danny Hope.[12] In his final game as a head coach, the Purdue Boilermakers beat their in-state rival Indiana Hoosiers in their traditional season-ending Old Oaken Bucket Game by a score of 62 to 10 at Ross–Ade Stadium.

Tiller was the first coach to use the spread offense in the Big Ten Conference, although many others have since brought their own version of the spread, including Jim Tressel at Ohio State, Randy Walker at Northwestern, Rich Rodriguez at Michigan, and Ron Zook at Illinois. Under Tiller and his spread offense, Purdue annually had one of the top offenses in the Big Ten.


Tiller died at his home in Buffalo, Wyoming, on September 30, 2017, at the age of 74, after battling recent health issues.[13] Numerous tributes were made to Tiller following his passing by former players, fellow coaches, and former teams that he led.[14][15]

Head coaching record

"You turned a lot of boys into men, I thank you for that."

- Purdue University team captain Ryan Baker during the press conference following Joe Tiller's final game as head coach, November 23, 2008.[16]


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Wyoming Cowboys (Western Athletic Conference) (1991–1996)
1991 Wyoming 4–6–1 2–5–1 T–6th
1992 Wyoming 5–7 3–5 T–7th
1993 Wyoming 8–4 6–2 T–1st L Copper
1994 Wyoming 6–6 4–4 T–5th
1995 Wyoming 6–5 4–4 6th
1996 Wyoming 10–2 7–1 1st (Pacific) 22 22
Wyoming: 39–30–1 26–22–1
Purdue Boilermakers (Big Ten Conference) (1997–2007)
1997 Purdue 9–3 6–2 T–2nd W Alamo 15 15
1998 Purdue 9–4 6–2 4th W Alamo 23 24
1999 Purdue 7–5 4–4 T–6th L Outback 25
2000 Purdue 8–4 6–2 T–1st L Rose 13 13
2001 Purdue 6–6 4–4 T–4th L Sun
2002 Purdue 7–6 4–4 T–5th W Sun
2003 Purdue 9–4 6–2 T–2nd L Capital One 19 18
2004 Purdue 7–5 4–4 T–5th L Sun
2005 Purdue 5–6 3–5 8th
2006 Purdue 8–6 5–3 T–4th L Champs Sports
2007 Purdue 8–5 3–5 T–7th W Motor City
2008 Purdue 4–8 2–6 T–8th
Purdue: 87–62 53–43
Total: 126–92–1
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth


Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
CAL 1976 2 3 1 .417 5th in West - - - -
CAL Total 2 3 1 .417 - - - -
CFL Total 2 3 1 .417 - - - -
Total 2 3 1 .417 - - - -


  1. ^ Stacy Clardie (September 11, 2008). "Tiller not thinking of wins record". Journal Gazette. Archived from the original on December 14, 2013. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "Montana State Promotes Tiller". Toledo Blade. June 6, 1965. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
  3. ^ "Bobcats co-captains". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). (photo). September 14, 1963. p. 9.
  4. ^ "2013 Bobcat History Book" (PDF). Montana State University. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  5. ^ "1964 AFL Draft". USA TODAY Sports Digital Properties. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Cougs Hire Joe Tiller to Grid Post". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. July 22, 1971. p. 18.
  7. ^ "1973 Washington State Cougars". Total Football Stats. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  8. ^ a b "Tiller to Replace Roach as Wyoming Coach". Los Angeles Times. December 20, 1990. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  9. ^ "Wyoming Wins Its Division". Los Angeles Times. November 17, 1996. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  10. ^ Boby Fischer (November 23, 1996). "Wyoming's Tiller Returning To Purdue As New Head Coach". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 9, 2013.
  11. ^ "Sheets' late TD lifts Purdue, 32-25". Yahoo!. September 20, 2008.
  12. ^ "Purdue has line of succession set up, with Hope to become coach in 2009". ESPN. Retrieved November 4, 2008.
  13. ^ "Former Purdue coach Tiller dies at age 74". Retrieved November 1, 2017.
  14. ^ "How college football is paying tribute to Joe Tiller". Retrieved November 1, 2017.
  15. ^ Dienhart, Tom (September 30, 2017). "Legendary Purdue football coach Joe Tiller, 74, dies". Big Ten Network.
  16. ^ "Bucket list is complete for a Regular Joe". Retrieved July 7, 2011.