CLEMSON, SC – As an assistant football coach under Frank Howard, Bill McLellan once coached practice on what are now the intramural fields near Gate 20 of Memorial Stadium.
McLellan returned to his old stomping grounds on Saturday for a different reason.
From that vantage point, Clemson held a dedication ceremony to unveil the former athletic director’s name on the north façade of Death Valley, officially naming the H.C. “Bill” McLellan North Upper Deck.
“It’s been a long time coming,” McLellan said. “It’s been a lifetime.”
A 1954 graduate of Clemson who was a two-time letterwinner for Howard, McLellan served as business manager (1956-66), assistant athletic director (1966-71) and director of athletics (1971-85) during his career as an administrator.
During his tenure as athletic director, Clemson’s football program rose to national prominence with five top-25 finishes, three ACC Championships and the 1981 National Championship.
The men’s soccer team also won its first national championship in 1984, the men’s basketball program reached the Elite Eight in 1980, and the baseball team made three trips to the College World Series.
McLellan’s son, Cliff, himself a former Clemson football player, said the honor was a meaningful one for his father.
“He really appreciates this,” Cliff said. “He loves Clemson more than anything, so it’s just a big honor for him. When I bring him back here, he’s happy because he’s home. It means an awful lot to him, and it means a lot to the family. It’s very special for us.”
The tribute was a fitting one for Bill, as it was through his endeavors that the upper deck of Memorial Stadium exists in the first place.
He oversaw the revitalization of Memorial Stadium from 18,000 seats to more than 80,000, making the facility the first on-campus stadium to construct skyboxes.
“Bill was a visionary, a real visionary,” said Joe Turner, former executive secretary of IPTAY during McLellan’s tenure. “He could see things that other people couldn’t see. He came up with the executive suites – that’s what we called them 35 years ago – on campus when nobody else in the college world could even spell executive suites.”
McLellan was behind the growth of Memorial Stadium into one of the top 15 campus stadiums in the nation in terms of capacity, as he oversaw the construction of the south stands in 1978 and then the north stands in 1983.
Senior Associate Athletic Director Bill D’Andrea said the naming of the upper deck in McLellan’s honor was a fitting tribute.
“Under Bill’s leadership, this became not only one of the best places to play football in America, but also one of the best experiences you can have anywhere on a Saturday afternoon in the fall – unless you’re a Gamecock,” D’Andrea joked during the ceremony.
During his tenure, McLellan oversaw an annual budget that grew from $3 million to more than $15 million, and IPTAY saw an increase in donations from $400,000 in 1971 to more than $5 million in 1985.
“The foundation of college athletics was laid by men like Bill McLellan,” current Clemson director of athletics Dan Radakovich said, “and his legacy here at Clemson not only will be enshrined here in this area, but it’s much more far reaching than just this upper deck and this ramp and the suite area. He touched so many different areas of Clemson, and created a great legacy – not only for himself, but also for the coaches and student-athletes that he interacted with here at Clemson. Clemson wouldn’t be what it is today without Bill McLellan.”
Including McLellan and Radakovich, the last four Clemson athletic directors were all present for the ceremony, as Bobby Robinson and Terry Don Phillips were also on hand.
Also in attendance was former head football coach Danny Ford, who led the Tigers to the 1981 national title under McLellan’s watch.
Also under McLellan’s leadership, women’s athletics were added and the Tiger Paw was introduced. McLellan was inducted into the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993, having received Clemson’s Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 1982.
McLellan has also been selected for the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2013, and will be enshrined with the state’s highest athletic honor on May 13 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.
“The record is clear: Bill McLellan left his mark on Clemson Athletics,” Radakovich said. “And now his legacy is symbolized by a strong, positive and prominent mark on Death Valley.”
December 7, 2018