Joe Ruetz, 86, former athletic director at Stanford University credited with launching Bill Walsh's career as a head football coach, died Jan. 2 at Stanford Hospital of an apparent heart attack.
One of seven children, Ruetz was born in Wisconsin but grew up in South Bend, Ind. He attended Notre Dame, where he played guard and one season of quarterback on the football team. During World War II, he was a physical education instructor and pilot in the Navy. Later, while studying at the University of Chicago, he played two seasons for the Chicago Rockets of the All America Football Conference.
As part of Chuck Taylor's football coaching staff, Ruetz helped guide Stanford to the 1952 Rose Bowl.
He succeeded Taylor as athletic director in 1972, and is credited with persuading Stanford's president to hold the East-West Shrine Game at the university. The game has since moved to Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco.
Ruetz gave Walsh his first head coaching job in 1977.