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Former Canes QBs, coaches, many others mourn Paul Dee's passing at Thursday funeral

University of Miami leaders, distinguished local businessmen, two great Canes quarterbacks and three generations of Hurricanes football coaches were among those who gathered at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Coral Gables Thursday morning to mourn the death and celebrate the life of a good man – former UM athletic director Paul Dee.

Dee’s sister, Catherine, spoke of how her brother “had a heart full of love. Humility, sense of humor and aspirations to make the institution he served great were the hallmarks of his life.”

Dee and his wife, Cathy Zuckerman Dee, were supposed to be on a cruise to Italy this week. But Dee underwent surgery for tongue cancer last week, took a turn for the worse in ensuing days, and died last Saturday night at 65.

Among those in attendance at the funeral: former Hurricanes coaches Randy Shannon, Butch Davis and Howard Schnellenberger, former quarterbacks Bernie Kosar and Steve Walsh, UM president Donna Shalala, former UM president Tad Foote, FIU athletic director Pete Garcia (who previously worked at UM), and Orange Bowl CEO Eric Poms.

Davis, who was hired by Dee, said after the funeral that Dee “was a terrific guy and deep thinker. He was a great sounding board, never made a knee jerk reaction. I am very grateful to Paul for giving me the opportunity. I learned a great deal from him about managing crises and adversity.”

Dee served as UM’s general counsel, then took over as athletic director in 1993 and held the job until 2008. He taught classes on campus the past few years and was set to retire June 1.

In an on-campus ceremony afterward, Shalala said Dee “was a man of many facets and talents – to many, a wise and trusted adviser, a dear friend. He was a class act. His was a life of integrity and purpose…. He built a legendary athletic program. His legacies are around us: BankUnited Center, [renovations] to Mark Light Field…. He was a true champion for our university and communitry.”

Shalala said the only time she ever heard Dee curse was after the regrettable pass interference call against Miami in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State, which cost UM a sixth national title.

Shalala recalled the university’s move from the Big East to the ACC, which “turned out to be more complicated than Paul advised me.”

When the Big East filed a lawsuit, Dee gathered necessary e-mails and other correspondence. When he asked Shalala why she hadn’t saved any of that information, Shalala cracked, “I worked for Clinton. They told us not to collect anything!”

Dee’s sister mentioned how Paul worked at Winn Dixie as a teenager, then came home and asked her to sort his coins, putting the quarters together, and so forth. In exchange for doing that and polishing his shoes, Paul would give his sister 25 cents.

“Those were the early signs of a masterful negotiator,” she said.

I knew Paul for two decades and found him to be a kind, decent, caring, witty man who treated everybody with respect. In recent years and even recent weeks, when we discussed UM, the state of college sports, the charms of Hendersonville, N.C. (where he and his wife had a vacation home) and other topics, he was always engaging and upbeat – even while dealing with several health problems.

He will very much be missed.

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We'll post a media column and news from the Heat series and Dolphins events in the next couple days. Two quick notes from Thursday afternoon: NBC 6 promoted sportscaster Adam Kuperstein to become its co-lead news anchor, alongside Jackie Nespral... ABC announced it will regionally televise UM's opener at Boston College at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 1. ESPN3 (Internet) will air Bethune Cookman at UM at noon Sept. 15.... The Dolphins signed sixth-round receiver B.J. Cunningham, making him the first Miami draft pick to sign.