John Toner, an athletic director who helped turn theUniversity of Connecticut into a basketball power, hiring its two best-known coaches, Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma, died on Tuesday at his home in Savannah, Ga. He was 91.
His death was announced by the university.
Toner, who arrived at UConn as the head football coach in 1966, was the athletic director from 1969 to 1987. He hired Auriemma as the women’s basketball coach in 1985 and Calhoun as the men’s coach in 1986. Auriemma and Calhoun have won a combined 12 N.C.A.A. championships at UConn. Auriemma’s team won a national title in 2014, as did the UConn men, coached by Kevin Ollie after Calhoun’s retirement.
Auriemma and Calhoun praised Toner’s leadership in pushing the N.C.A.A. to include women’s varsity sports in 1981.
“The growth of women’s sports in this country can be directly related to the work that John Toner did to help push forward the Title IX bill,” Auriemma said.
Toner added women’s varsity sports at UConn in 1974 and took the university from the regional Yankee Conference to the larger Big East as a charter member in 1979.
John Toner was born on May 4, 1923, in North Dighton, Mass., and grew up on Nantucket. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Boston University, where he was the starting quarterback in 1947 and 1948.
Survivors include his wife, Claire; four sons, Jack, Bill, Mike and Richard; two daughters, Susan Dagley and Sally Collins; 12 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.