Kaye Cowher dies of cancer at 54

Updated: July 26, 2010, 2:38 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Kaye Cowher, the wife of former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher, died Friday after battling skin cancer. She was 54.

Cowher
Cowher

"Kaye was such a loving and compassionate person and she was the foundation of our family," Bill Cowher, now an NFL analyst for CBS, said in a statement. "Kaye was always at my side throughout my career as a player, coach, NFL analyst and, most importantly, as a parent to our three daughters Meagan, Lauren and Lindsay. They will miss their mother dearly."

Born Kaye Young in Bunn, N.C., she met Bill Cowher at NC State in 1976, where he was a linebacker and she and her twin sister, Faye, played women's basketball. The couple married in 1981.

"Kaye was the rock that we could all lean on in the tough times. She was looked up to by so many people and I cannot say enough about what Kaye meant to our family," Cowher said. "Her memory will never be forgotten."

Kaye Cowher played a key role in her husband's decision to retire from coaching in 2007 and move full-time to Raleigh, so the family could be together as their daughters completed their high school and college basketball careers. The family relocated to Raleigh during Cowher's final year as coach in 2006, one season after the Steelers won the Super Bowl.

"We were saddened to learn of the loss of Kaye Cowher," Steelers president Arthur J. Rooney II said in a statement. "Kaye was a very private person who was very devoted to her family. Kaye made many friends in our organization and our community. She will be missed by the many people whose lives she touched. On behalf of the entire Steeler family, we extend our condolences to Bill, his daughters and their family."

Meagan, Lauren and Lindsay Cowher all followed their mother's footsteps into Division I college basketball. Meagan and Lauren played together at Princeton, while Lindsay currently plays at Wofford.

Kaye Cowher and her sister led NC State to the Atlantic Coast Conference's first women's basketball title in 1978. They also appeared in a Wrigley's Doublemint gum commercial.

Kaye Cowher played one season for the New York Stars and two with the New Jersey Gems in the Women's Professional Basketball League until that league folded in 1981.

The family has requested privacy. Services will be held in North Carolina on Monday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.