Former coach dies eight days after cancer diagnosis
By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
A tight coaching community formed at Graham years ago and Mike McCauley was part of that.
His recent death was stunning to people who knew him best.
“I was shocked that it happened to somebody who is that active and that fit,” said Pat Moser, the former football coach at Graham and Orange. “He was a really good friend for a lot of years. It’s shocking to see this happen and see this happen so quick. I will miss him every day.”
McCauley, a former Graham football coach, died June 5 at age 59 after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. He had been athletics director at Orange since 2016.
The Alamance County man spent 14 years as a teacher and coach at Graham, where he was defensive coordinator for the school’s 2000 state champions.
“Mike was very serious about everything that he took part in,” said Kyle Ward, a former colleague at Graham and the school’s current athletics director. “He was serious as an athlete and a coach. He had that stoic look.”
Ward was a former adult softball teammate of McCauley, and they had worked together on mowing crews at the school. He said he visited his friend three days prior to his death.
McCauley, Moser, and Van Smith were on football staffs together at Graham and Orange. Bonds formed from those years in meetings and huddles.
McCauley wasn’t in the education field until joining the football staff at Graham under former coach Gary Moser.
“He caught the bug,” Pat Moser said. “He really loved it. He loved working with young people.”
So McCauley, a product of Alamance Christian School and Elon College, got into teaching. He taught for a year at Southern Alamance Middle School and then took a job at Graham.
He helped run the defense for the Red Devils.
“You would never find a more dedicated and hard-working person than Mike McCauley,” Pat Moser said. “He was always compiling information.”
Opponents knew with McCauley overseeing the defense that it would be a challenge.
“He was excellent at that,” former Cummings coach Steve Johnson said. “That Graham defense, they were just tough.”
Graham reached back-to-back Class 1-A championship games in 1999 and 2000, winning the latter.
“They had a great run,” Johnson said. “Mike was very much a part of that.”
Pat Moser got out of coaching before resurfacing at Orange. After seven years as Graham’s coach concluded in 2011, McCauley spent time on Southern Lee’s football staff and became athletics director there before going to Orange to join Moser and serve as assistant athletics director.
“When he came to Orange, he was the offensive coordinator,” Moser said. “He told me, ‘I’m having a ball.’”
McCauley was a motorcycle enthusiast. He survived a couple of accidents, including one a few years ago coming back from a beach trip that included Moser.
“It was so bad I decided not to ride anymore,” Moser said.
McCauley’s conditioning and workout regimen might have helped him. It certainly caught other’s attention.
“When he was at Graham, he was as physically fit as any of the coaches around,” Johnson said.
McCauley became Orange’s AD in 2016. Moser said he planned to retire July 31.
Eight days after his cancer diagnosis, he died.
“He never complained,” Moser said. “I did not know what he was going through.”
He is survived by his wife, Karen, and daughter, Kristen, and her family. A memorial service was held Saturday in Burlington.