June 4, 2005
Banks McFadden, regarded by sports historians as Clemson’s greatest all-around athlete in its 109-year intercollegiate sports history, passed away Saturday morning after a lengthy bout with cancer. The native of Great Falls, SC died at the home of his daughter, Lil Arrants, in Ormond Beach, FL. He was 88-years-old.
McFadden will be buried on Cemetery Hill behind Clemson Memorial Stadium. Funeral arrangements will be announced at a later date. Flags on the Clemson campus were lowered to half staff on Saturday in McFadden’s honor. A moment of silence will be observed in McFadden’s honor prior to Saturday night’s NCAA Tournament baseball game vs. College of Charleston at Kingsmore Stadium.
McFadden was a standout at Clemson in football, basketball and track, earning three letters in each sport from 1936-40. He earned All-America honors in both basketball (1938-39) and football (1939) and was named the nation’s most versatile athlete in 1939.
On the basketball court, McFadden led Clemson to the 1939 Southern Conference Tournament Championship, the only postseason tournament title in Clemson basketball history. The Tiger center was Clemson’s top scorer each season and finished his career with a then Clemson record 810 points.
In track, McFadden won three events in the State Track Meet in one afternoon, setting state records in all three of them. Earlier in the same year he placed first in five events in a dual meet, scoring 25 points while the opposing team’s total score was 28 points. His senior year he also pitched in one game for the Clemson baseball team.
On the gridiron, McFadden was a triple threat player, leading the Tigers to a 9-1 record and Clemson’s first ever bowl bid. With McFadden batting down four passes in the second half, and averaging 44 yards on 11 punts, the Tigers defeated a Frank Leahy coached Boston College team, 6-3, in the 1940 Cotton Bowl in Dallas, TX.
McFadden held the Clemson single season punting record (43.5 in 1939) for 40 years, and his 22 punts of at least 50 yards in 1939 still stand as a Clemson single season record. At the conclusion of his career he was a first-round draft choice of the Brooklyn Dodgers of the NFL, the fourth selection of the draft, and still the highest draft choice in Clemson history. He played one year in the NFL with the Dodgers and led the NFL in yards per rush before returning to Clemson.
In 1959, McFadden became the first Clemson football player (and still one of only two) inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
After coaching Clemson’s defensive backs under second-year head Coach Frank Howard in 1941, McFadden joined the Army Air Corps and spent four years in North Africa and Italy. He was discharged as a colonel. McFadden came back to Clemson after his service and was again the secondary coach, this time for four seasons (1946-49), and then took over as head freshman football coach for five years before returning to coach defensive backs in 1955, a spot he held until Howard retired following the ’69 season.
Besides his football coaching years, McFadden also put in a stint as varsity track coach, freshman basketball coach and was for 10 years, 1946-47 through 1955-56, he was Clemson’s Head Basketball coach. From 1947-48 through 1951-52, Clemson improved its conference victory total each year, the first coach in the history of college basketball to realize a conference victory improvement five consecutive years. The streak was culminated with an 11-4 Southern Conference record in 1951-52, still the Clemson record for conference wins in a season.
After Howard resigned as head football coach in 1969, McFadden took over the university’s intramural department, which he directed for 15 years.
McFadden came to Clemson in a 6-3 frame and a skinny 165 pounds. According to former Clemson Sports Information Director Bob Bradley, Frank Howard, said, “If McFadden drank a can of tomato juice, they could have used him as a thermometer.” Howard was an assistant coach under Jess Neely when McFadden came to Clemson in 1936.
“I can remember the first time I saw him on the practice field,” Howard (who died in 1996) recalled. “He looked like one of those whooping cranes. I thought sure as the devil that Coach (Jess) Neely had made a mistake by giving this boy a scholarship. But he proved me wrong.”
McFadden was granted a long list of honors throughout his career. In 1966 he was presented with Clemson University’s Distinguished Alumni Award. He was a charter member of the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame and the South Carolina athletic Hall of Fame. In 1987, both his uniform number 23 in basketball and uniform number 66 in football were retired by Clemson University. In 1994 he was inducted as a charter member of the Clemson Ring of Honor at Clemson Memorial Stadium.
Of all of the honors he received as an athlete, he told Bradley that the 1939 football team MVP award was his highest honor. “To me, when your teammates vote you something, then you feel pretty good. That award meant more than anything else (to me).”
McFadden is the only Clemson athlete to have both his football jersey and basketball jersey numbers retired. In 1995, the Banks McFadden Building at Jervey Athletic Center was dedicated in his honor.
McFadden was married to the former “Aggie” Rigsby of Manning, SC for 55 years prior to her death in 2001. McFadden and his wife had four daughters, Lil, Patsy, Marcia and Jan.
Head Football Coach Tommy Bowden on the passing of Banks McFadden “Banks McFadden is one of the legendary figures of Clemson athletic history. His accomplishments on the field as an all-around athlete are second to none.
“He followed all Clemson programs closely, and obviously had a strong bond with the Clemson football program. He was always willing to help and was very supportive at all times.
“I talked about Banks McFadden with my father after I first met him when I became the head coach at Clemson. He remembered Banks McFadden as a great player during his (Bobby Bowden’s) youth. He was very excited that I had the opportunity to meet him.
“What a wonderful gentleman who had such a significant impact on Clemson university for a long period of time.
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