Bill McLellan, who served Clemson for over 30 years, including 14 years as Director of Athletics, died early Monday morning at Greenville (SC) Memorial Hospital. McLellan was 81 years old at the time of his death.
McLellan’s vision brought Memorial Stadium to an 80,000 seat structure, hired some of the most successful coaches in school history, and expanded the athletic landscape to include women’s athletics.
McLellan served as Clemson Director of Athletics from 1971-85. During this time Clemson won 34 ACC Championships in nine different sports. The program was especially successful from 1978-85 when Clemson had 45 top 25 teams and 27 ACC championships.
The program had a national top five all-sports ranking four times in a five-year period between 1978-83, including an all-time best number-three ranking for the 1979-80 academic year. That year Clemson reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Basketball Tournament in its first appearance, went to the College World Series and to the Peach Bowl.
The football program made great strides during McLellan’s tenure, highlighted by the 1981 National Championship the school’s first national title in any sport. Clemson ranked in the top 20 in the nation five times and won three ACC Championships (1978, 1981, 1982) during McLellan’s time at Clemson.
McLellan’s vision for facilities had much to do with the program’s improvement. He oversaw the building and financing of Clemson’s South upper deck in 1978 and the North upper deck in 1983, bringing the stadium to among the top 15 largest on-campus facilities in the nation. It was also his plan to incorporate 100 luxury boxes into the expansion to help finance the projects.
Last May the upper deck on the North side of the stadium was named in his honor.
Clemson had no women’s athletics teams when he started as director, but he brought in eight women’s programs between 1975-77. He enhanced their facilities and infrastructure quickly and six of the eight programs had a final top 20 ranking within their first five years of existence.
McLellan also had a knack for hiring coaches. Seven of his selections are in the Clemson Hall of Fame, including former Head Football Coach Danny Ford, who led the Tigers to the 1981 National Championship at the age of 33, still the youngest coach to win the National Championship.
“He had a great influence on me,” said Ford on Monday. “He gave me an opportunity at an early age. I don’t know if there was another athletic director in the country who would have given me that chance at that time.
“He was very supportive. He gave you what you needed to be successful. He had an incredible ability to get things done. When he came to me about building the North side upper deck at Death Valley I told him not to do it. It was too risky because of the high interest rates at the time. But he found a way to get it accomplished. He was way ahead of his time when it came to facilities.
“I want to give my best to his great family and tell them they are in our thoughts and prayers. He will be missed by the Clemson family.”
McLellan was a member of the Clemson football team from 1951-54. He was on the 1952 Gator Bowl team and lettered in 1953 and 1954.
McLellan earned an undergraduate degree in agronomy in 1954 and a Masters degree in agricultural economics in 1956. He began working at Clemson in the department of agricultural economics after he received his Masters, then started in the athletic department on May 1, 1958.
McLellan started working for Frank Howard in the business office and later went into coaching. When Howard retired as Director of Athletics in 1971, McLellan replaced him.
The native of Dillon, SC became Director of Athletics at Southern Mississippi in 1986 and retained that position until 1998 when he retired. He was inducted into the Southern Mississippi Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.
McLellan received the Clemson Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 1982. He was inducted into the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993. This past May he was inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame.
McLellan is survived by his wife Ann and children Suzy, Bill, Cliff and Arch Anna.
Funeral Arrangements will be announced later.
Story from Clemson Sports Information