Northwestern University football coach Randy Walker died of an apparent heart attack Thursday night. He was 52.
Walker died after feeling chest pains around 10 p.m. at his suburban Chicago home, said Mike Wolf, the school's assistant athletic director for media services.
"This is a devastating loss, not only for our athletic program, but for the entire Northwestern community," athletic director Mark Murphy said in a statement early Friday. "Randy truly embraced Northwestern and its mission, and cared deeply for his student-athletes, both on and off the field."
Walker was the first Northwestern coach to lead the school to three bowl games. The Wildcats lost to UCLA 50-38 in the Sun Bowl last December.
In October 2004, Walker checked himself into a hospital after experiencing chest pains. He was diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle; the condition is not a common ailment, and is usually caused by a virus. Walker was out of the hospital in two days, and said he was taking a new approach to his diet and work schedule.
"I've really taken my doctor's orders to heart, because frankly, I want to see my grandkids someday," he said at the time.
Two months ago, Northwestern gave Walker a four-year extension through the 2011 season. He joined the school in 1999 after nine years at Miami of Ohio.
Walker's Wildcats posted 37 wins, going 7-5 last season. He led the team to three bowl games since 2000.
Northwestern shared the Big Ten title in 2000 and went to the Alamo Bowl. The Wildcats also went to the 2003 Motor City Bowl.
Walker was the first Wildcats coach to guide the team to four seasons with at least six wins since C.M. Hollister in 1899-1902.
He is survived by his wife, Tamara, and two children, Abbey, 28, and Jamie, 25, who is the school's football recruiting assistant.