May 29, 2001
Clemson, SC – Former Clemson Head Football Coach Charley Pell died Tuesday in Alabama after a long bout with cancer. He was 60-years-old. Pell served as Clemson’s head coach in 1977 and 1978. During that time he took the Tigers to an 18-4-1 record.
Pell authored college football’s top Cinderella Story in 1977. The Albertville, AL product took a Clemson team that had been 3-6-2 in 1976 and led the Tigers to an 8-2-1 record during the 1977 regular season. The Tigers were rewarded with a berth in the Gator Bowl against Pittsburgh, Clemson’s first bowl bid in 18 years.
During the 1977 season, Clemson upset a top 20 and defending SEC champion Georgia team in September in Athens by a 7-6 score. It was Clemson’s first win at Georgia since 1914. Along the way, Pell’s 1977 Tigers almost upset a Joe Montana led Notre Dame team at Clemson before losing to the eventual National Champions by a 21-17 score. The Tigers held a 17-7 lead heading into the final period. The Tigers completed the storybook regular season with a 31-27 win over South Carolina in Columbia. Jerry Butler’s 20-yard touchdown reception from Steve Fuller with 49 seconds left won the game for the Tigers. That 1977 team concluded the season ranked 19th in the nation, Clemson’s first final top 20 ranking in 18 years.
Pell’s Tigers picked up where they left off in 1978. The Tigers had a 10-1 record in the regular season and won the Atlantic Coast Conference with a perfect 6-0 ledger. The Tigers defeated an NC State team that would finish the year 9-3 by a 33-10 count, then downed a 11th ranked Maryland team in College Park by a 28-24 count to clinch Clemson’s first ACC championship since 1967.
Pell was named ACC Coach of the Year in 1977 and 1978, the first coach in ACC history, regardless of sport, to be named the league’s top coach in his first two years at a conference school. The 1978 Tigers were ranked sixth in the final AP poll after defeating Ohio State in the Gator Bowl.
Pell did not coach in that 1978 Gator Bowl. A few days after his second consecutive win over South Carolina (41-23), Pell resigned to become the head coach at the University of Florida. He was replaced by Danny Ford in early December.
Pell played his college football at Alabama under Bear Bryant. He was a member of Alabama’s 1961 National Championship team. The 1964 Alabama graduate came to Clemson in 1976 and served as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator. He had served as an assistant coach at Virginia Tech from 1974-76. He had been the head coach at Jacksonville State in Alabama, compiling a 33-13-1 mark, prior to going to Virginia Tech. His 1970 Jacksonville State team had a perfect 10-0 record.
This past April, Pell made his final trip to Clemson. He spoke to the current Clemson team for about 20 minutes prior to the Clemson Spring Football team at Death Valley. He was introduced to the crowd at midfield prior to the game.
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