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Harry Gamble, former Eagles GM, Penn coach, dies

Former Eagles president and general manager Harry Gamble passed away Tuesday morning. (Inquirer file photo)
Former Eagles president and general manager Harry Gamble passed away Tuesday morning. (Inquirer file photo)
Former Eagles president and general manager Harry Gamble passed away Tuesday morning. (Inquirer file photo) Gallery: Harry Gamble, former Eagles GM, Penn coach, dies

Harry Gamble, 83, of Haddonfield, the longtime Eagles executive and former Penn football coach, died Tuesday.

Mr. Gamble served as the team president of the Eagles from 1986-1994, and as general manager from 1985-1995.

He originally joined the Eagles in 1981 as a volunteer assistant coach under Dick Vermeil. In 1982, he became a full-time staff member, coaching special teams and tight ends. Gamble then became an assistant for both the coaching and personnel staffs in 1983 before being named director of football operations in 1984.

He was named general manager in 1985 by owner Leonard Tose, and his teams were 96-78-1 during his tenure, including 2-5 in the playoffs.

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  • "He was an excellent football coach, executive and philanthropist, but he will be remembered most for his warm personality, his strong character and his love for his family. He will be sorely missed," Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said in a statement released by the team.

    Mr. Gamble is survived by his wife, Joan, their two sons, Harry and Tom, the latter of whom serves as the Eagles vice president of player personnel, and three grandchildren.

    Born and raised in Pitman, Mr. Gamble earned his master's and doctorate degrees in business education from Temple University. He received his undergraduate degree from Rider College, where he was an offensive lineman.

    In addition to Penn, Mr. Gamble coached high school teams at Clayton and Audubon and in college at Lafayette. He was named South Jersey coach of the year after directing Audubon to an unbeaten season in 1960.

    He then took over a Lafayette team that had won a total of seven games in the previous four years and won 21 games over the next four. He was named Eastern coach of the year by the New York Football Writers' Association and NCAA District I coach of the year after turning around the Penn program in 1972.

    Mr. Gamble coached Penn for 10 years, from 1971-80, and went 34-55-2. His first team went 2-7. Then he recorded back-to-back seasons of 6-3 in 1972 and 1973.

    "We are saddened to hear of Harry's passing," said Penn athletic director Steve Bilsky. "Most people around the city of Philadelphia remember Harry's tenure with the Eagles, but he had a solid decade as head coach of the Penn football program before he made the move to the pros. He impacted a lot of young lives here at Penn, and we know many of our alums who played for him are in mourning today."

    "I've coached at all three levels [including a stretch as an Eagles' assistant]," Mr. Gamble told The Inquirer in 1995. "Coaching is what I wanted to do. It was my goal in life. Ending up being a general manager and president of an organization like the Philadelphia Eagles was icing on the cake."

    In 1985, he was inducted into the Gloucester County Sports Hall of Fame and the South Jersey Coaches Hall of Fame. He also received the Bert Bell Man of the Year Award from the Bakers Club of Philadelphia. In 1994, Mr. Gamble was named Man of the Year by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's Catholic Youth Organization.

    Funeral arrangements will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Brooks-Irvine Memorial Football Club Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 205, Collingswood, N.J. 08108.

    By Inquirer Staff
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