HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Long-time former Southern Miss Director of Athletic H.C. "Bill" McLellan passed away overnight after a short illness.
McLellan, who ran the department of athletics from 1986-1999, is widely recognized for his many accomplishments during his 13-year tenure leading Southern Miss and also helped the school to become a charter member of Conference USA in 1996.
The Dillon, S.C., native became just the third full-time athletic director in the history of the school in the summer of 1986. When then Athletic Director Roland Dale elected to step down in the spring of 1985, Southern Miss officials knew they must have a man with a wealth of experience, a man of vision and a man familiar with taking an athletic program and helping guide it to the next level.
McLellan had served as assistant athletic director and athletic director of Clemson University for nearly 30 years when he arrived at Southern Miss and had helped to take a small athletic program and deliver them to the national stage. Golden Eagle fans grew to appreciate McLellan, as athletic people all over the country already did.
Looking back over McLellan's tenure at Southern Miss, the major facility improvements and additions like the Track and Soccer Complex, the construction of the Pat Ferlise Center, the first state-of-the-art scoreboard at Roberts Stadium, a Student Services Center for athletics facility, the addition and improvements at Pete Taylor Park and the M-Club annex. In addition, he also finalized the plans for construction of the current Duff Athletic Center as well adding additional women's sports.
McLellan coordinated an athletic budget at Southern Miss that grew from $2.7 million in 1986 to almost $10 million when he left while overseeing a program that won championships, played in bowl games and postseason competitions, and competed successful on as high a level as any school in the country.
He was a major force in the formation of Conference USA. Undoubtedly, at the time, the biggest step in the history of the University. And as then Conference USA Commissioner Mike Slive said of McLellan's influence during the early days of the league "the accomplishments and achievements of Conference USA in the short time it has been in existence would not have occurred without the input and great leadership provided by Bill McLellan."
The Southern Miss faithful is mourning the loss of a man that dedicated 13 years of his life to Southern Miss and spent almost every waking moment striving to make sure the Golden Eagles competed on the highest levels and had the resources to compete with anyone in the country.
McLellan, a football letter winner at Clemson from 1952-54, earned an undergraduate degree in agronomy in 1954 and a Master's degree in agricultural economics in 1956 and began working at in the department of agricultural economics after he received his Masters, then started in the athletic department. 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.
He was inducted into the Southern Mississippi Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001 and also 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. A Memorial Service will be held at 12 Noon ET, Thursday, in the Sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church, Greenville S.C. The family will receive friends from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m., Thursday in the Parlor of First Presbyterian Church Greenville prior to the service.
A graveside committal service will be held in Woodland Cemetery "Cemetery Hill" on the campus of Clemson University at 3 p.m., later that day. The family receive friends immediately following the committal service in the Tiger Den at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.
Condolences may be expressed online at RobinsonFuneralHomes.com or at Duckett-Robinson Funeral Home, Central, S.C.
On Bill McLellan
Dr. Rodney Bennett | Southern Miss President
"Bill touched many people in both his personal and professional life, and he will be greatly missed by all who knew him. Our hearts go out to the family during this difficult time and they will remain in our thoughts and prayers."
Bill McGillis | Southern Miss Director of Athletics
"I first met Bill as a young administrator at the University of Houston in 1995. We were together in many of the founding meetings of Conference USA, and he made an immense impact on me at that time. I loved his straightforward approach, and he was someone whose counsel I knew I could trust and value from day one. It is an incredible honor to follow him as the Director of Athletics at Southern Miss. Bill was an amazing man and a terrific administrator who left a wonderful legacy at our university."
Jeff Bower | Head football coach at Southern Miss (1990-2007)
"Bill McLellan did an unbelievable job for our university during his tenure as athletic director and his contributions will always be remembered. He helped guide us through the years of the Metro Conference and into Conference USA and had a vision and a plan that helped us to be successful in both. As a young head football coach, he had the confidence to hire me and bring me back to Southern Miss and made sure that I had the resources, tools and support to be successful. He gave us the opportunity and time to create a solid and winning program. He was so patient and supportive of me and what I wanted to accomplish and he was an integral part of the success we had. In football and in all of the other sports, he always made sure we had what we needed and when we needed it to win championships. We will miss him and our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time."
John Cox | Voice of the Eagles
"Southern Miss has lost one of its greatest leaders in Bill McLellan. From the moment he set foot on the campus he had only one goal in mind and that was to make Southern Miss athletics the very best that it could be. Every decision that he made, I know was made with what he thought was best for the University and the athletic department. His leadership helped to grow the athletic department and its athletic budget and provided the resources for every sport to get better. His involvement in creating Conference USA and Southern Miss' place in it, was one of the most important contributions in school history. He cared about the people who worked for him and their families and those of us who had the opportunity to work for him and grow professionally and personally under him, will never forget what he did for Southern Miss. It is with a heavy heart that we learned of his death and we express our sympathy to Miss Ann and his family and will keep them in our prayers."
Former Southern Miss Baseball Coach Hill Denson (1984-1997)
"Our University owes a great deal to Bill McLellan. From a baseball standpoint, he lent his support to helping us build a grandstand and press box and turn it into a stadium at Pete Taylor Park, including lights and other amenities to help move our baseball program to among the best in the country. His involvement in the formation of Conference USA will always be remembered as one of the biggest steps this school had taken. For support of the head coaches at the time we are saddened by the news of the loss of one of our greatest leaders in Southern Miss athletics."
Former Southern Miss President Aubrey K. Lucas
"Bill McLellan came to USM at an important time in our history. Roland Dale had just completed his tenure as athletic director. We had made impressive achievements under his leadership, but Bill added to that success. He came with contacts throughout the nation in the area of athletics. And those contacts and his reputation were instrumental in our being included in Conference USA. We had facilities that needed improving and Bill did the best he could with the resources available. One of Bill's greatest strengths was his wife Ann, who made friends everywhere she went. Bill was a determined and knowledgeable administrator and sometimes his direct approach rubbed people the wrong way but they overlooked that leadership style because of his good results. We are deeply saddened to learn of his death and we express our sympathy to his wonderful family."
Former Southern Miss Baseball Coach Corky Palmer (1998-2009)
"I will always be grateful to Bill McLellan for what he did for Southern Miss as athletic director but also for giving me the job I always wanted, to be the baseball coach at Southern Miss. He had faith in me that I could do the job and he was supportive of the way that I wanted to build the program and that always made it easier to accomplish our goals. I always enjoyed a fantastic relationship with Coach Mac and I learned a great deal from him in the time we worked together. Much of our success in baseball goes back to the support and decisions he made in regards to our program. He did great things for Southern Miss and was respected all over college athletics. The entire Southern Miss family will miss him and send our thoughts and prayers out to his family."