Bill McLellan

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Henslee C. "Bill" McLellan was a Clemson football player who went on to serve at the university as the Athletic Department's business manager, as an assistant football coach under Coach Frank Howard, assistant athletic director, and finally as athletic director, before being forced out in 1985 following one too many scandals on his watch.

History

Bill McLellan lettered in football for two years and played on the 1952 Gator Bowl team. He graduated in 1955. He then went on to be the Athletic Department Business Manager along with Assistant football coach from 1958-1969. He also became the Assistant Athletic Director from 1966-1971 and was then named Athletic Director in 1971. Says his biography on the university official athletic website: "He oversaw many changes at Clemson during his time as Athletic Director. Some of these include the addition of both upper decks to Memorial Stadium and improvements to the baseball, track, soccer, swimming, and tennis facilities. He also saw IPTAY grow into the number-one fundraising organization in the country."

Scandals begin

Unfortunately, McLellan also was in charge when three major sports scandals occurred at Clemson in the 1970s and 1980s, the final one of which forced him to resign. In 1975 the NCAA investigated the Men's Basketball program and placed the program on three years of probation on October 6, 1975 for egregious recruiting violations by already-departed Coach Tates Locke. House-cleaning in the athletic department stopped at one - Locke.

In 1976, McLellan served as the hatchet man in the firing of football Coach Red Parker after a 3-6-2 season (Parker had been the ACC Coach of the Year in 1974), the handling of which disgusted many loyal Tiger fans. Once again, calls for additional reforms in the athletic department went unheeded.

Parker's replacement, Charlie Pell, built on the previous coach's recruiting and delivered two superior seasons in 1977 and 1978, but at the cost of another NCAA investigation into illegal recruiting practices. Pell resigned to take the head coaching job at the University of Florida in December 1977. On March 29, 1982, the NCAA announced an inquiry into the recruiting of the newly-ascended National Champion Clemson Tigers.

On April 4, 1980, The Tiger questioned McLellan's leadership in an editorial, "Who's Boss?.

On November 21, 1982, the football program at Clemson was placed on probation for a 2-year period to include the 1983 and 1984 seasons. This sanction was enforced on the program by the NCAA Committee on Infractions due to a lengthy history of recruiting violations to gain an athletic advantage that had taken place from 1977 through the Tigers' 1981 National Championship season and into 1982, under the administration of two head coaches, Charlie Pell and Danny Ford. This gives rise to such jokes as "Clemson - the best team money can buy," and "IPTAY stands for 'It's Probation Time Again Y'all.'" (TAPS 1983, Volume 73, page 220.) Despite this, Bill McLellan remained as athletic director.

Athlete's death rattles campus

The final chapter in McLellan's tenure at Clemson began with the discovery of Dutch cross-country star athlete Augustinus "Stijn" Jaspers dead in his dorm room on October 26, 1984, stunning the university. An autopsy did not uncover a cause of death, but it was soon revealed that he had taken phenylbutazone, a pain drug, illegally supplied by Clemson coaches. (Steirer, Jr., William F., "The Outsider: Bill Lee Atchley, 1979-1985", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 236.) "The prescription drug, which requires a physician's permission to use, had been obtained without prescription from a Nashville, Tennessee, druggist." (Wunder, John R., "A Good Sport: Walter Thompson Cox, 1985-1986", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 253.)

On October 30, three coaches, Clemson track coach Stanley Narewski, strength coach Samuel Colson and graduate assistant strength coach Jack Harkness, admitted to distributing illegal drugs and steroids to athletes. Narewski provided the phenylbutazone to Jaspers. James Brummitt, acting director of public safety, informed his superior, vice president of business and finance, Melvin Barnette, a 27-year employee of the university. At this point, three administrators had learned of the serious nature of the situation: Brummitt, Barnette, and director of athletics, H.C. "Bill" McLellan. (Wunder, John R., "A Good Sport: Walter Thompson Cox, 1985-1986", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 253, citing articles in The Greenville News, Greenville, South Carolina, 17, 20 March 1985.)

In early November, McLellan telephoned solicitor William L. Traxler of the 13th circuit at his home, and informed him that coaches have admitted supplying drugs to the dead athlete. Traxler tells McLellan that it might be a matter for the grand jury. "Meanwhile, a physician in Seneca, James Pruitt, wrote an autopsy report listing the cause of the young Dutchman's death as congestive heart failure, which had resulted from a congenital heart defect. Running had aggravated Jasper's condition." (Wunder, John R., "A Good Sport: Walter Thompson Cox, 1985-1986", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 253, citing article in The Greenville News, Greenville, South Carolina, 5 March 1985.)

By late November no indictments had been returned in the coaching drug scandal and very few were even aware of what was happening on campus and in the Atchley administration. Then Paul Jaspers, the track star's brother, arrived determined to get answers. He was stonewalled by the Athletic Department which refused to show him the autopsy report. Jaspers then found an athlete willing to detail the coaches' drug distribution to team members and they went to the Clemson police. Jaspers also prevailed upon Seneca physician James Pruitt to amend the autopsy report allowing for possible drug causation. Jaspers also encouraged solicitor William L. Traxler to empanel a grand jury. (Wunder, John R., "A Good Sport: Walter Thompson Cox, 1985-1986", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 253, citing articles in The Greenville News, Greenville, South Carolina, 26, 31 March 1985.)

ident

President kept in the dark

It was not until December 3 that President Bill Atchley learned of the scandal. "Atchley was so completely excluded from the administrative handling of the Jaspers affair that he did not learn of the problem until 3 December, when Walter T. Cox, the vice president for student affairs at Clemson, informed him of the investigation, and evidence of the involvement of illegal drugs." (Steirer, Jr., William F., "The Outsider: Bill Lee Atchley. 1979-1985", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 236, citing Atchley/Steirer interview, 18 December 1985, the author's conversation with Solicitor William L. Traxler, 18 December 1985; and report of Traxler's on the investigation, 4 January 1985, CU President's papers, Atchley, folder 37, Special Collections.) On December 7, Atchley called a meeting attended by director of athletics Bill McLellan, the vice president for student affairs, Dean Cox, and Bobby Robinson, the assistant athletic director. Atchley informed them that SLED, the State Law Enforcement Agency, would be investigating the serious athletic scandal unfolding. "According to the Greenville News, McLellan begged for an internal investigation, but Atchley refused. [Solicitor William L.] Traxler had already called Atchley to tell him of the SLED investigation, but McLellan led many to believe the inquiry was Atchley's choice." (Wunder, John R., "A Good Sport: Walter Thompson Cox, 1985-1986", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 254, citing articles in The Greenville News, Greenville, South Carolina, 5 March 1985, and The Tiger, 11 January 1985.)

After being suspended by President Atchley for their involvement in illegal drug distribution to athletes, coaches Narewski, Colson and Harkness(for personal reasons Harkness had resigned months before this occurred) resigned on December 11. (Wunder, John R., "A Good Sport: Walter Thompson Cox, 1985-1986", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 254, citing articles in The Greenville News, Greenville, South Carolina, 5 March 1985, and The Tiger, 11 January 1985.) Public reaction was swift, with The Tiger taking the same editorial stance as after the firing of football coach Red Parker and the Tates Locke basketball scandal in 1976, that a more complete house-cleaning in the athletic department was warranted. The Greenville News begins extensive coverage of the drug scandal and observes, "The extent of the problem at Clemson isn't clear, but it certainly isn't limited to the resigned coaches and members of the men's track team who first brought it to light." (Wunder, John R., "A Good Sport: Walter Thompson Cox, 1985-1986", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 254, citing the Greenville News, Greenville, South Carolina, 10 February 1985.)

Trustees versus Atchley

At a retreat of the Board of Trustees and university officials held at Hickory Knob State Park, on January 24, 1985, the majority of the board decides that President Bill Atchley has to go. Atchley's opponents, without providing evidence, claimed that he has responded to the coaching and drugs crisis revealed in the fall by organizing a campaign to make the Board of Trustees appear hostile to academics. (Steirer, Jr., William F., "The Outsider: Bill Lee Atchley. 1979-1985", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 236, citing article in The State, Columbia, South Carolina, March 3, 1985.)

No joy in Mudville

After a faculty senate vote of "no confidence" in the director of athletics on February 15, McLellan asked for and received an indefinite leave of absence. (Steirer, Jr., William F., "The Outsider: Bill Lee Atchley. 1979-1985", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 236, citing article in The Greenville News, Greenville, South Carolina, February 16, 1985.) The next day, President Atchley announced that he had approved McLellan's request for indefinite leave with pay pending the SLED investigation. Bobby Robinson became acting athletic director. (Greenville News, Greenville, South Carolina, 16 February 1985.) "McLellan asked [Dean Walter T.] Cox for the leave as the two drove home from Columbia after attending a meeting of the trustees. Cox approved of the idea, took it to Atchley, and then called W. G. DesChamps, a trustee and chairman of the board's subcommittee on athletics. DesChamps told The State reporter that McLellan's leave had resulted from the latter's exhaustion caused by the upstate newspapers and Clemson's faculty." (The State, Columbia, South Carolina, 16 February 1985.) "Cox publicly announced that McLellan's leave 'was not a prelude to termination, and I hope that is clear...If I thought that this would jeopardize his position, I would have never recommended it.' " (Greenville News, 16 February 1985.) "Faculty Senate President David Senn said the decision was good for the university." (Greenville News, 16 February 1985.) (Wunder, John R., "A Good Sport: Walter Thompson Cox, 1985-1986", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 254, citing articles in The State and The Greenville News listed above.)

On March 1, 1985, the Board of Trustees met to decide whether or not to fire President Bill Atchley. Board chairman, state Senator James Waddell, asserted that there is no movement to oust Atchley, but state newspapers said otherwise. Pointing out that the meeting has been called, the Greenville News reported that the board was split, and suggested that the "trustees evidentally favor nurture, promotion, and protection of athletics over the school's chartered purposes of teaching, research, and public service." (Wunder, John R., "A Good Sport: Walter Thompson Cox, 1985-1986", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 255, citing the Greenville News, 1 March 1985.) At the end of a seven-hour session, Waddell announced that Atchley had resigned effective July 1 after failing to get a favorable vote of confidence and that Bill McLellan wished to be reassigned elsewhere in the university. Dean Cox informed Waddell that McLellan had effectively resigned from the athletic directorship. All this caused much consternation across the state, with much criticism leveled at the Board of Trustees. Several hundred students rallied to urge Atchley to change his mind, but he refused. (Wunder, John R., "A Good Sport: Walter Thompson Cox, 1985-1986", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 255.)

Replacements

On March 3, Dean Cox, vice president for student affairs, announced that a search would begin the following week for athletic director McLellan's successor. Shortly, Cox indicated that acting director Bobby Robinson was the frontrunner. (Wunder, John R., "A Good Sport: Walter Thompson Cox, 1985-1986", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 256, citing The Greenville News, Greenville, South Carolina, 3 March 1985.) By March 6, students had collected 3,000 signatures on petitions supporting President Bill Atchley. (Steirer, Jr., William F., "The Outsider: Bill Lee Atchley. 1979-1985", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 237.)

Dean Walter Cox appointed Bobby Robinson the new athletic director at Clemson on March 9, replacing McLellan, who had effectively resigned on March 1. Two other candidates for the position had withdrawn their names from consideration. President Bill Atchley immediately ratified Cox's choice. (Wunder, John R., "A Good Sport: Walter Thompson Cox, 1985-1986", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 256, citing the Greenville News, Greenville, South Carolina, 9 March 1985.)

In the wake of President Atchley's resignation on March 1, the Board of Trustees met again in Columbia on March 24 to agree on a search plan and set a target date of October for selection. They also passed a resolution affirming the priority of academics over athletics. Some trustees sought more information about a possible cover-up of Stijn Jasper's death, but board chairman, state Senator James Waddell, insisted that the situation was strictly an administrative matter. (Wunder, John R., "A Good Sport: Walter Thompson Cox, 1985-1986", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 256, citing board minutes, 24 March 1985, pages 10-11.)

On June 29, at a meeting of the Board of Trustees, Dean Walter Cox was unanimously selected as interim president after Bill Atchley tendered his resignation in March. In a surprise move, the board selected the first nonlife-term trustee, Louis Batson, Jr., as chairman replacing state Senator James Waddell. (Wunder, John R., "A Good Sport: Walter Thompson Cox, 1985-1986", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 256, citing board minutes, 29 June 1985, page 29.) On July 1, Dean Cox becames the tenth president of Clemson University, replacing Bill Atchley, whose resignation became effective this date. He will serve 249 days in this capacity. (Wunder, John R., "A Good Sport: Walter Thompson Cox, 1985-1986", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 257.)

On July 29, President Cox placed Vice President of Business and Finance Melvin Barnette on medical leave. Within three months Barnette will be fired. But not before campus security is removed from his purvue and a new safety director selected as James Brummitt is also let go. Cox also supports awarding a year-long sabbatical to former President Bill Atchley at a cost of $100,000. Cox also accepts responsibility for making an oral contract of three years with former athletic director Bill McLellan at $68,000 per annum. McLellan, 54, accepts a forced retirement. (Wunder, John R., "A Good Sport: Walter Thompson Cox, 1985-1986", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 257.)

One year later

By the end of October 1985, one year after the death of athlete Jaspers brought to light the distribution of drugs by coaches, the following participants in the passion play are gone from campus: President Bill Atchley, athletic director McLellan, Board of Trustees chairman James Waddell, vice president of business and finance Melvin Barnette, director of public safety James Brummitt, coaches Stanley Narewski, Samuel Colson and Jack Harkness, and, of course, athlete Jaspers. (Wunder, John R., "A Good Sport: Walter Thompson Cox, 1985-1986", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, pages 257-258.) The final autopsy report finds the cause of death to be heart failure; the drugs were incidental. (Wunder, John R., "A Good Sport: Walter Thompson Cox, 1985-1986", McKale, Donald M., editor, "Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1988, ISBN 0-86554-296-1, page 253, citing articles in The Greenville News, Greenville, South Carolina, 26, 31 March 1985.)

Official university athletic websites make no mention of any of the above, saying mildly only that "His 35-year tenure at Clemson came to an end in 1985..." (http://www.clemsontigers.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/mclellan_bill00.html}

Southern Miss

McLellan briefly took a job with Eastern Foods of Atlanta before being offered the position of athletic director at the University of Southern Mississippi by USM President Aubrey K. Lucas, announced on July 19, 1985. McLellan signed a four-year contract with Southern Miss that paid him $70,000 a year. He assumed his duties on July 28, 1985. Ironically, a previous candidate for the job, who first accepted and then declined it, was future Clemson Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips. (Cox, John W., and Bennett, Gregg, "Rock Solid: Southern Miss Football", University Press of Mississippi, 2004, ISBN 157806709X, page 197.)

Return to Clemson

On July 22, 2004, the Clemson Athletic Department released the following:

Former Clemson Athletic Director Bill McLellan will assist the Clemson Athletic Department in its fund-raising effort, in particular for the WestZone Project, senior associate athletic director for external affairs Bill D'Andrea said Thursday.

"Bill McLellan has over 40 years of experience in athletic fund-raising, including 26 years as a Division I athletic director and we welcome his expertise," said D'Andrea. "He supervised all aspects of the construction of the North and South upper decks at Memorial Stadium and also had significant experience in that area when he was the athletic director at Southern Mississippi."

McLellan served as Clemson Athletic Director from 1971-85. He succeeded Frank Howard as Clemson Athletic Director and oversaw a period of significant growth in the department's landscape in terms of facilities, sports and victories. A 1955 Clemson graduate, he had earlier served Clemson in athletic administration and as an assistant football coach. A 1993 Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, he was a letterman on the Clemson football teams of 1953-54 under Frank Howard.

McLellan served as the athletic director at Southern Mississippi from 1986-98. During his career Southern Mississippi made great strides in facilities and in victories on the field. He was inducted into the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.

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It is reported that McLellan passed away on September 30, 2013.

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