May 24, 2017
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Ulmo “Sonny” Randle, a former Virginia football standout and the 35th head coach in program history, passed away on Tuesday, May 23. He was 81 years old.
Born in Washington, D.C., the three-year letterwinner is one of only two UVA alums dating back to 1922 to be named the head coach of the Cavalier football team. He enjoyed an 11-year career in the National Football League and after his playing days Randle embarked on a career as college coach, which included head coaching stops at East Carolina (1971-73), Virginia (1974-75) and Marshall (1979-83).
Growing up near Culpeper, Va., Randle attended Fork Union Military Academy from elementary school through high school before enrolling at Virginia. Running mostly track in high school, he didn’t play football until his senior year at Fork Union and was hurt three games into his only high school season. Randle walked on at Virginia in 1955 and quickly earned a scholarship, lettering in 1956, 1957 and 1958. Randle led the ACC in receptions (47), receiving yards (642), kickoff yards (506) and all-purpose yards (1,253) in 1958.
Randle played in the Blue-Gray All-Star Football Classic in 1958 following his collegiate career.
A 19th-round pick of the Chicago Cardinals in 1958, Randle played with the franchise in Chicago in 1959 and St. Louis from 1960-66. Randle was a four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Cardinals, earning the honors in 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1965. In his second season in the NFL in 1960, Randle recorded 62 receptions, second most in the league, for 893 yards and led the league with 15 touchdowns. He was named a first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press, The Sporting News and United Press International.
Randle later went on to play for the San Francisco 49ers from 1967-68, the Dallas Cowboys in 1968 and finished his career on the injured reserve list with the Washington Redskins in 1969.
Randle joined the football coaching staff at East Carolina in 1970 as its wide receiver coach and was named head coach in 1971. He led ECU to the Southern Conference championship in 1972 and 1973 and left with a 22-10 record in three seasons. Randle, a 1959 graduate of Virginia, returned to Charlottesville as the head coach in 1974. Randle went 5-17 in two seasons at UVA before moving on to be the athletic director and head football coach at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Va., from 1976-77. Randle returned to the collegiate ranks in 1979 as the head coach of Marshall where he accumulated a 12-42-1 record in five seasons as the program was still rebuilding from the 1970 plane crash that took 75 lives.
Randle began his broadcasting career in the 1960s while playing for the Cardinals, the first such player/radio broadcaster in the NFL. After his coaching career was over he served as vice president of sports for Ray Communications Radio and Television, and covered major college football for more than 20 years as a color analyst and sports commentator in St. Louis, Virginia and West Virginia. In addition, Randle started S-R Sports in 1991, a syndicated radio network that produces sports talk shows broadcast throughout Virginia. Randle recently retired from his broadcasting career in 2014 where he would do a sports update on WKDW-AM (900) Staunton and WCYK-FM (99.7) Charlottesville, while also recording a sports minute that was sent out to 25 stations around the Commonwealth. Randle always would sign off with his well-known radio line – “Until our next visit … this is … Sonny Randle sayin’ — [long pause]– sooo long ev-ry buddy.”