Former South Carolina Football coach and AD James Carlen passed away on Sunday morning at the age of 79 after a long illness.
Born July 11, 1933 in Cookeville, Tenn., he was a son of the late James A. and Roberta Hill Carlen and a proud Eagle Scout. He graduated from Georgia Tech where he was a linebacker and punter on two national championship teams under Coach Dodd. After graduating from Georgia Tech and serving one season as an assistant coach at Cookeville Central High, he served in the U.S. Air Force for four years where he rose to the rank of Lieutenant. He then began his college football coaching career at Georgia Tech as assistant to Coach Bobby Dodd, defensive coordinator and later as college athletics director. His coaching stints included Georgia Tech, West Virginia, Texas Tech and South Carolina. At these three universities, Carlen attained a 107-69-6 record. Carlen guided the Mountaineers from 1966-69 to a 25-13-3 record. In 1969, after leading the Mountaineers to a 10-1 record, which included a 14-3 victory over South Carolina in the Peach Bowl, he then went to Texas Tech from 1970-74. The Red Raiders were 37-20-2 under Carlen's reign. In 1973, he guided the Red Raiders to one of their most successful seasons ever with an 11-1 campaign. He was selected Southwest Conference Coach of the Year for the second time, NCAA District Seven Coach of the Year and Fellowship of Christian Athletes Coach of the Year.
From 1975-1981, Carlen led the University of South Carolina to a 46-36-1 record, which included two eight-win seasons and three bowl trips. The 45 victories are the third most in South Carolina football history by a head coach. Carlen also coached the school's only Heisman Trophy winner, George Rogers. In addition to being the school's football head coach, he also served as the school's athletics director until 1981.
To add to Carlen's long list of awards, former South Carolina Governor James B. Edwards presented Carlen with the Order of the Palmetto, one of the highest awards that can be given to a resident of the state of South Carolina. In 2006, he was inducted into the S.C. Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Cookeville High School Hall of Fame in 2007 and the National Football Foundation and College of Fame in 2008. Also in 2008, Carlen was inducted into the Texas Tech Athletic Hall of Honor. He was recognized by the West Virginia University Fellowship of Christian Athletes for his numerous contributions and also received the Honorary West Virginian Award in 2009.
Coach Carlen touched many lives, including his countless players, staff and friends as he continued to provide love, support and guidance throughout their lives. His commitment and dedication was evident after their playing careers as he continued to serve as a mentor and a coach for life.
Surviving are his wife, Meredith Taylor Carlen; sons, James Anthony Carlen IV (Kim) of Columbia, William Holt Carlen of Columbia; daughters, Mollianne Elliott (Joe) of Roswell, Ga., Melanie Caswell of Columbia; brother, Walter Hill Carlen of Cookeville, Tenn.; twelve grandchildren, Jimmy, Maggie and Knox Carlen; Carlen Arnold; Harrison, Hill and Evans Elliott; Garner Leigh, Davis Brooke, Jamie Keith, Abbey Hill and Claxton Grace Caswell.
The family wishes to thank the staff of Tidewater Hospice, especially Cindy, Joanie, Ivey and Meva, for their compassion and excellent care and support.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Fellowship of Christian Athletes, 8701 Leeds Road, Kansas City, MO 64129 (www.fca.org) or Trenholm Road United Methodist Church, 3401 Trenholm Road, Columbia, SC 29204.