2005: Newsmakers - Cancer claims Colorado coach

Mark Simpson put up a courageous fight, but it was one battle he did not win. Not many do when the enemy is cancer.

The men’s golf coach at the University of Colorado for the past 30 years passed away earlyDec. 5 in Boulder, Colo., with his wife, Valorie, and family by his side. He was 55.

“It was a very peaceful passing,” said Colorado assistant coach Brad Neher, who has traveled with the team this fall while Simpson underwent medical treatment. “Seeing him the last couple of weeks, well, he was more like Coach, more like himself. It’s a very sad day for the University of Colorado and especially for the golf program. There was only good that came out of that man, and I know he’ll be watching over us.”

“We have lost one of the truest Buffaloes ever, and this place will not be the same without him,” said David Plati, associate athletic director/sports information and a longtime friend of Simpson’s. “We will remember his smile, his laugh, his unwavering support for every coach, athlete and staff member who passed through here. The big guy is finally out of pain and (knew) he was headed to a better place.”

Plati said a memorial service was scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Coors Events Center on campus.

Simpson had battled cancer for a year and checked into a Boulder hospice on Nov. 23.

“He remained positive and upbeat until the end,” Neher said. “When we visited him we would tell stories; we would laugh; we would cry. He was such a special person.”

Last December, doctors found cancer on a small portion of Simpson’s lung and in some nearby lymph nodes. The personable Buffaloes coach underwent chemotherapy treatments and surgery and was thought to be rid of the disease. Last spring he hardly missed a beat in coaching and traveling with his team. But the cancer returned during the summer. During the past few months, Simpson received an abundance of cards, letters and calls from fellow coaches, friends, family and former players.

One of the most gratifying efforts came from Colorado senior Edward McGlasson. The Buffaloes closed out their fall season at the Tunica National Intercollegiate in Mississippi, where McGlasson posted his first individual college victory and dedicated it to Simpson.

“I’m just thankful for all he has done for me, not only as a player but as a person,” McGlasson said after winning. “Without his coaching, his wisdom and input into my game, there is no way I’d be the player I am today.”

In January, Simpson was inducted into the Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame. He was a former president of the GCAA and for eight years served on the association’s National Advisory Board. He also served on the NCAA Golf Committee and was its chairman for two years.

Under Simpson’s guidance, Colorado made 15 NCAA appearances, and he was named 2000 Big 12 Co-Coach of the Year. In 2004 the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame recognized him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

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