Jess Neely

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Jess Neely was Clemson's sixteenth football coach, serving from 1931-1939. He took the Tigers to their first bowl game, the 1940 Cotton Bowl played in Dallas, Texas, where the unknown Clemson team beat heavily favored Boston College, 6-3.

Neely was a 1923 graduate of Vanderbilt University. He was hired as head coach at Southwestern of Memphis, where he worked for four years.

Neely arrived at Clemson in 1931 after serving for several years as an assistant coach under Wallace Wade at the University of Alabama, to find the athletic program in disrepair. The Clemson Athletic Association was in arrears and there was little playing material for the various teams. Under Neely's guidance, the Tigers began restoring their former gridiron fortunes, and by 1935, Neely had balanced the budget, his baseball teams had twice won the State Championship, and the football program showed regular improvement. Nonetheless, according to author Lou Sahadi's 1983 volume The Clemson Tigers : From 1896 to Glory, Neely's tenure was known as the "Seven Lean Years".

In 1938 the Tigers finished the season ranked second in the Southern Conference with a 7-1-1 record. Neely recruited star athlete Banks McFadden who was named Clemson's second football All-American in 1939 and basketball All-American in both 1938 and 1939.

After the Cotton Bowl win, Neely resigned as Clemson athletic director and head coach on January 10, 1940 and moved onto Rice University in Houston, Texas where he continued his successful coaching career. Neely recorded a .547 winning percentage in 85 games at Clemson for a 43-35-5 outcome.

Line coach Frank Howard took over the reins for the Tigers and held the head coaching position until 1969.

"Jess Neely is the coach who put Clemson back on the right track," said McFadden. "When Frank Howard took over when Neely left to go to Rice, he moved it forward another notch."


Preceded by: Josh Cody Clemson University Football Coach Succeeded by: Frank Howard