Chuck Mills always enjoyed being in Cache Valley.
Even if it was cold and snowy, he would leave Hawaii for a visit. The former Utah State head football coach just loved being back to a place he called home and where many Aggie fans referred to him as “coach.” He tried to come to at least one game every year.
Mills, who was inducted into the Utah State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008, passed away this past weekend. He was 92 at the time of his death.
Mills was the 16th head football coach for the Aggies from 1967-72. During those six seasons, he led USU to a 38-23-1 record, including a 17-7 mark at home. During his Aggie career, Mills was 8-4 against USU’s in-state rivals BYU and Utah, and his 38 career wins still rank third all-time in school history.
“Those were the best six years of my life at Utah State,” Mills told The Herald Journal during an interview in 2008. “The guys we had and coaches. I was pretty lucky. Then there was a good core of people at the school like Ken Mitchell, Tom Moulton and people like that. They’ve been friends for 35-36 years now.”
He was humble when told USU planned to induct him in its Hall of Fame. Mills questioned whether he was contacted by mistake.
During his six years as USU’s head coach, which is tied for the fourth-longest tenure in school history, Mills led the Aggies to four winning seasons, including back-to-back 8-3 campaigns in 1971 and 1972.
In 1971, Mills took the first American collegiate football team to Japan as USU played a pair of games against Japanese All-Star teams. The Japanese equivalent of the Heisman Award, known as the “Mills Trophy,” is presented to the top collegiate football player in Japan each year.
Mills coached five All-Americans during his time at USU, including defensive linemen Phil Olsen and Bill Staley, who both earned first-team honors. Quarterback Tony Adams was named a second-team All-American under Mills, while wide receivers Mike O’Shea and Tom Forzani both garnered honorable mention All-American accolades.
“We were pretty good,” Mills said during that 2008 interview. “As head coach, I was smart enough not to screw up the good athletes. That’s my claim to fame. We had some good kids.”
Following the 1972 season, he left to take over the Wake Forest team, a decision he regretted when looking back, but he had his reasons for leaving Cache Valley.
“At the time, it was a good move financially, not so much for myself, but for the staff, because in those days Utah State didn’t really have any money,” Mills said. “At that time in the state of Utah, a contract could only be for one year. That wasn’t a big deal, but Wake Forest offered five years and almost double the assistants salary. At that time, it seemed right. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Mills was born Dec. 1, 1928, in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from Illinois State University in 1950 and spent the next five years as a coach at the high school ranks in his hometown of Chicago, while at the same time coaching a semi-pro team that posted a 30-0-3 record in two seasons.
In 1956, Mills served as a line coach at Citrus Junior College in Azusa, California, and then spent five seasons as the head football and wrestling coach at Pomona College in Claremont, California. Mills then moved to Pennsylvania, where he was the head coach at Indiana (Pa.) University for two seasons, followed by a one-year stint as the head coach for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. He then spent one season as an assistant at Arizona and another year as an assistant in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs before joining the Aggies.
Following his time at USU, Mills spent the next five seasons (1973-77) at Wake Forest, and later spent nine seasons (1980-88) as the head coach at Southern Oregon. He then concluded his coaching career in 1997 as he led the Coast Guard to a 9-2 record in his only season with the Bears.
Mills retired to Hawaii soon after and spent the past 20 years staying involved in football as a consultant at all levels of the game.
To make a donation to the Coach Chuck Mills Scholarship Endowment, visit utahstateaggies.com/donate. Each year, an Aggie football student-athlete is awarded a scholarship from the endowment in honor of Mills.