John Bridgers, who passed away in 2006, served as the University of New Mexico's Director of Athletics from 1979-87. Bridgers led the UNM athletics program in the aftermath of one of its most infamous periods in history - Lobogate. In the turmoil that followed the scandal, Bridgers hired many fine coaches and restored integrity and respectability to UNM athletics.
In Bridgers' first full season at UNM (1980-81), the Lobos finished dead last in the Western Athletic Conference's 11-sport composite rankings. New Mexico jumped to fifth place overall a year later and then to fourth place in 1982-83. Beginning in 1983, UNM began an unprecedented stretch of four straight second place finishes in the conference rankings.
Bridgers brought in basketball coach Gary Colson to restore the UNM basketball program. Bridgers also set out to elevate the status of the UNM football program in a city that was basketball dominated. He hired former NY Giants running back Joe Morrison in 1980, and two years later the Lobos had the winningest football season in school history (10-1).
Bridgers personally raised over $1 million in private contribution for use in both the men's and women's programs and he gathered $500,000 from the private sector in 1985 to help build a new track on the other side of the football stadium. Thanks to his stewardship, the Lobo athletic department was able to restore credibility to UNM athletics. This is the second time Bridgers has been recognized by the UNM Alumni Lettermen's Association; he was awarded honorary lettermen status in 1999.
Bridgers spent more than 40 years in collegiate and professional athletics. He was the head football coach and athletic director at Baylor from 1959-68. Bridgers left Baylor to work for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL, coaching the offensive backs. Other coaching stints included assistant football coach at South Carolina and then on to be the director of athletics at Florida State from 1973-79.