TigerNet -- Football -- History -- Jess Neely, Hall of Famer

Jess Neely

Head Coach Years: 1931-1939
Record at Clemson: 43-35-7
Winning Percentage: .547

Perhaps one of Clemson's most be loved coaches was Jess Neely.

Neely influence and inspiration is still present today as the IPTAY Scholarship Club was founded during his coaching Tenure. IPTAY is the lifeblood of the Clemson Athletic Department. It provides funds for athletic scholarships and capital improvements.

Thousands of athletes have benefited through the IPTAY Scholarship fund since its inception in 1934. That first year of IPTAY, Neely and his staff convinced 160 people to pay $10.00 a year to Clemson, for a grand total of $1,600 the first year, (not bad during the middle of the great depression.)

Neely was head coach at Clemson from 1931 through 1939 and spent the next 26 years at Rice University in Houston.

Neely coached Clemson to its first bowl game, the 1940 Cotton Bowl, where the Tigers capped a 9-1-0 season by beating Boston College 6-3. Clemson ended the season ranked l2th in the final Associated Press poll, its first top 20 season in history. Boston College was ranked 11th going into the game and it was Clemson's first win over a top 20 team in its history. The team featured the play of Banks McFadden Clemson's first Associated Press All American. Clemson had a 43-35-7 record during Neely's tenure.

Neely coached Rice to four Southwest Conference Championships and six bowl appearances, the last being a trip to the Bluebonnet Bowl in 1961.

During 40 years of college coaching he compiled a record of 207-99-14. Neely is eighth in college football history in victories by a Division I-A coach heading into the 1995 season. For his accomplishments, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

Neely graduated from Vanderbilt in l924, after lettering three years in football and serving as captain of the 1922 team. He coached a year of high school football before returning to his alma mater to obtain a law degree. But he never practiced.

He coached four years at Southwestern college in Clarksville, Tenn. and then went to the University of Alabama in 1928. It was there that he met Frank Howard. Neely brought Howard to Clemson as line coach in 1931. Howard replaced him in 1940 and remained as head coach for 30 years. In 1967, Neely returned to his alma mater as athletic director. He officially retired in 1971, but continued to coach golf until l98l, when he moved back to Texas.

"If I didn't look in the mirror every day, I wouldn't know how old I am, "Neely once said. "Working with the boys makes you feel young, I feel that in athletics the boys learn a sense of loyalty and sacrifice and values they don't learn anywhere else.

"They learn to compete," he said, "and that is what life is all about-its competition.

"If they make good in football, chances are they'll be successful elsewhere. I like to see that those boys make something of themselves. That is my reward.

"The boys go to college to study and get that degree. Playing football is a side activity. When fellows go to a school first to play football they get an entirely wrong sense of values.

"And when you start them off with the wrong sense, it isn't difficult for them to go astray."

"He was a cool, southern gentlemen, but he worked us like dogs. The work- outs were always twice as hard as the games, "said Dick Maegle. "There were no superstars, no victory that was better than all the other victories. To him football was a team game and we were all team players." Maegle was the player tackled in a famous episode in the 1954 Cotton Bowl, when frustrated Tommy Lewis came off the bench to stop a certain touchdown. Rice won that game, 28-6.

Neely died at the age of 85 in 1983, but his landmark accomplishments in the 1930s at Clemson contributed significantly to Clemson's outstanding football tradition.

All-Time I-A Coaching Victories (Not Including Wins Since 1995)
Paul 'Bear' BryantMaryland, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Alabama323
Amos Alonzo StaggSpringfield, Chicago, Pacific314
Glenn 'Pop' WarnerGeorgia, Cornell, Carlisle, Pittsburgh, Stanford, Temple313
Joe PaternoPenn State268
Bobby BowdenSamford, West Virginia, Florida State250
Woody HayesDenison, Miami (OH), Ohio State238
Bo SchembechlerMiami (OH), Michigan234
Jess NeelyRhodes, Clemson, Rice207


Source: 1996 Clemson Football Media Guide