Dan Allen, at 48, was football coach at BU, Holy Cross
By Mark Blaudschun
May 18, 2004
Dan Allen, who led Boston University's football team to an undefeated regular season in 1993 and also coached at Holy Cross for 15 years, died Sunday of complications from multiple chemical sensitivity. He was 48.
Mr. Allen, whose disease eventually forced him to coach from a wheelchair in the press box, began his career at Holy Cross in 1982 as defensive line coach. He switched to running backs coach in 1986, quarterbacks coach in 1988, and was named offensive coordinator in 1989. One year later, the Westborough resident became a head coach for the first time, at Boston University. He went 35-34 in six seasons at the BU helm. In 1993, the Terriers went 11-0 and Mr. Allen was named the NCAA Division 1-AA coach of the year. BU defeated Northern Iowa in the first round of the playoffs before losing to Idaho.
Despite the brilliant season, BU struggled to finance its Division 1-AA football program, and by the mid-1990s, Mr. Allen knew it was time to look elsewhere.
In 1996, Mr. Allen returned to Holy Cross as head coach, fulfilling a dream. BU would discontinue its football program after the 1997 season.
For Mr. Allen, it was tough work finding a winning formula at Holy Cross, which wrestled with academic and athletic issues and how much emphasis to put on football. But he made it work, or tried to make it work.
After four sub.-500 seasons, Mr. Allen led the Crusaders to a 7-4 record in 2000.
Things became even tougher two years ago, when Mr. Allen began coming down with persistent headaches. Then one of his toes went limp and there were other signs that something was wrong.
Doctors ran tests but couldn't pinpoint a problem. After more tests, the diagnosis was multiple chemical sensitivity, possibly caused by exposure to toxic chemicals.
Mr. Allen battled the illness, but there were too many obstacles. He had trouble walking.
Last fall, he told the Globe, "All I know is, I'm a competitor. If the good Lord is going to take me, I'm going down swinging."
Mr. Allen took a medical leave in the 2002 season so doctors could try to come up with answers. He came back to coach the final four games, but the signs of recovery were slim. Last season, he coached from a wheelchair, watching games from the press box. The Crusaders went 1-11 and it was clear that some changes were coming. Last November, Holy Cross relieved him of his coaching duties, making it clear that he was still employed by the college.
"He was probably the most unassuming coach I've ever known," said BU assistant athletic director Ed Carpenter yesterday. "He was very understated, but he was also very competitive.
Mr. Allen was a 1978 graduate of Hanover (Ind.) College, where he was an honorable mention All-American linebacker.
Mr. Allen leaves his wife, Laura; and children Mark, Taylor, and Danielle. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
Copyright material is distributed without profit or payment for research and educational purposes only, in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107. Reference: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.