MIAMI — Bill Braucher, a former Miami Herald sportswriter and columnist who helped lure coach Don Shula to the Dolphins, died Friday of lung cancer. He was 77.
Braucher contacted Shula, a fellow alumnus from John Carroll University, on behalf of the team in 1970 after former owner Joe Robbie decided to fire Coach George Wilson.
The Dolphins could not directly contact Shula, then coach of the Baltimore Colts, because it would have been considered tampering. The Dolphins used Braucher as an intermediary but were still penalized a first-round draft pick for hiring Shula.
It was an era when sportswriters had much closer connections to the teams they covered. Another Herald columnist suggested Shula's name to Robbie, and the owner asked Braucher to contact Shula.
"He was instrumental in me coming here, and that's something that changed my life," Shula said. "It was a special relationship. I admired and respected him very much. He's a very proud man and he was very private. It was always the type of relationship based on mutual respect, which was pretty unique."
Braucher served in the Army during World War II and started his career in journalism in Ohio before coming to the Herald in 1962. He was the Herald's first Dolphins beat writer, covering the team from its inception in 1966 until 1974.
He left for The Cincinnati Enquirer in the 1970s, then returned to the Herald in the early 1980s until his retirement in 1991.
He is survived by a son, Michael Braucher, a major in the Air Force stationed near St. Louis.
A private funeral is planned.