Sal Aunese

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Sal Aunese
Date of birth (1968-05-08)May 8, 1968
Place of birth Oceanside, California
Date of death September 23, 1989(1989-09-23) (aged 21)
Place of death Boulder, Colorado
Career information
Position(s) Quarterback
Career history
As player
1986–1988 University of Colorado
Career highlights and awards
Honors Big Eight Newcomer of the Year

Siasau "Sal" Aunese (May 8, 1968 – September 23, 1989) was a college football player who played for the University of Colorado. Aunese was from Oceanside, California in San Diego County and was of Samoan descent.[1] He died from inoperable stomach cancer and lung cancer on September 23, 1989 at the age of 21.[2]

Early life[edit]

Sal was born in Oceanside, CA, in northern San Diego County; he was raised there with his six siblings. His parents spoke Samoan at home growing up. He was an All-American Quarterback at Vista High School (Vista, California), where he and his teammates won not only the C.I.F. San Diego section championship, but also the State championship. His playing at Vista High attracted interest from several college programs including the University of Nebraska and the University of Colorado.[1]

Aunese's final high school transcript and his low ACT scores caused him to fall under the 1983 Convention Proposal No. 48, commonly referred to as Prop 48.[1] Because of this provision, he would miss the freshman year of his college career.

College career[edit]

Aunese chose to attend the University of Colorado after heavy recruiting from Colorado assistant coach Les Miles and Colorado head coach Bill McCartney.[3] Because of the Prop 48 conditions, Aunese missed his first year of eligibility with the team in 1986. He came into the 1987 season and soon took over the starting job at quarterback that same year. In 1987, he led the Buffaloes to a 7–4 record but the team failed to reach a bowl game. He was awarded the Big Eight Newcomer of the Year award after the season. In 1988, the team finished with an 8–4 record but lost in the Freedom Bowl to Brigham Young University.[4]


During his participation in the Freedom Bowl, coaches, players, and family noticed that Aunese was not his usual self. Teammates told him he looked sluggish on the field and family members wished he would be taken out of the game.[1] In the months following the bowl game, Aunese experienced a multitude of different symptoms, including not participating in workouts or drills, coughing consistently, refusing food and water, and vomiting blood.

Aunese was examined in February 1989 and doctors diagnosed him with a rare form of stomach cancer which was inoperable. He was given six months to live after his initial diagnosis. Over the course of the next several months, Aunese continued to visit Colorado games and practices, but he continued to get weaker from the cancer. He died on September 23, 1989.

Aunese's funeral was held at Macky Auditorium on the University of Colorado campus. The auditorium was packed with over 2,000 mourners and hundreds more outside.[2] He was buried at Eternal Hills Memorial Park located in Oceanside, CA. The University of Colorado football team dedicated their season to Sal, customizing the team's jerseys with the name "Sal" sewn into their sleeves. They ended their season 11–1, losing the Orange Bowl to the University of Notre Dame.[4] The Buffaloes did win an Orange Bowl rematch against Notre Dame the following season to earn its first and only national championship – a title it shared with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

Personal life[edit]

Aunese is the father of former LSU football player T.C. (Timothy Chase) McCartney, born to him and Kristy McCartney, the daughter of Bill McCartney in April 1989. T.C. was recruited to LSU by Les Miles, the former Colorado assistant who helped bring Aunese to Colorado.