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Jess Neely showed the college football
world how to win like a gentleman.

jess4.gif (25033 bytes)Jess Neely came to the Owls in 1940 after a solid stint at Clemson.  The Tennessee- born,  Vanderbilt- educated attorney- coach was a pioneer in both on-field tactics and marketing.  At Clemson, he originated the IPTAY ("I pay $10 a year") Club, which at the time was considered  big-money alumni fundraising.  (It is quite a coincidence, but the three most- reknowned Rice coaches--John W. Heisman, Jess Neely, and Ken Hatfield, all coached at Clemson before coming to Rice.)

Neely's teams were always tough; usually a winner.  Coach Neely liked to recruit as many Texas small-town high school quarterbacks as possible, on the theory that they were each the best athlete on their team--he could always find another position for them to play.

His inaugural 1940 Rice team went 7-2.  Then, his Rice teams in the immediate post-war years reached the greatest measure of success in Institute history, finishing 10th in the nation, with an Orange Bowl victory over Tennessee in 1946, and 5th in the nation with a Cotton Bowl victory over North Carolina, in 1949.  His teams of the 50s were no less accomplished, winning SWC championships in 1953 and 1957, with a Cotton Bowl victory over Alabama in '54.  He took the Owls to two more bowl games before ending his career--in  1960, to the Sugar Bowl, and in 1961, to the Bluebonnet Bowl.

jess5.jpg (6783 bytes)Ending his coaching career in 1966, Neely finished eighth on the all-time list of winningest college coaches, with 208 victories.  He still had a few good coaching years left in him, but saw that college athletics was becoming a big business, far removed from his philosophy of sport, and he had come to find the recruiting process especially distasteful.   He returned to Vanderbilt to serve for many years as athletic director there.  On the Vanderbilt campus, through the athletic complex, the major street is named Jess Neely Drive.  By that measure, at Rice, the stadium, the weight complex, the coaches' offices, the gym, and the street that goes by them--all ought to be named after Jess Neely.

Froggie Williams' Rice Historical Society biography of Jess Neely...

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