MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - WLTX in Columbia, S.C., is reporting that former West Virginia University football coach Jim Carlen has died.
Carlen coached West Virginia from 1966-69, guiding the Mountaineers to a 10-1 record and a 1969 Peach Bowl victory over South Carolina before moving on to Texas Tech.
Carlen was a punter for coach Bobby Dodd at Georgia Tech when the Yellow Jackets faced West Virginia in the 1954 Sugar Bowl, and he later served as Georgia Tech’s defensive coordinator before replacing Gene Corum at WVU in 1966. Carlen was just 33 years old at the time of his hiring.
“That poor guy came to Morgantown and we weren’t very good when he got here,” recalled running back Garrett Ford, who played two seasons for Carlen in 1966-67. “Coach Carlen was the first coach to have an off-season conditioning program. He took out the lockers at the old stadium and put in mats and made us lift weights. He had innovative ideas for that period of time.”
Carlen accumulated a 25-13-3 record at West Virginia, including a 17-4 mark over his final two seasons in Morgantown.
It was at Carlen’s insistence that West Virginia become an eastern independent and get out of the Southern Conference, setting a course that Mountaineer football later enjoyed in the 1980s when Don Nehlen took over the program.
“Coach Carlen set the tone for big-time football here,” said Ford.
In five seasons at Texas Tech, Carlen led the Red Raiders to a 37-20-2 record and trips to the Sun (1970 and 1972), Gator (1973) and Peach bowls (1974).
Carlen’s last seven seasons were spent at South Carolina where he held the dual role of head football coach and athletic director. Carlen had a 45-36-1 mark with the Gamecocks, including a pair of 8-4 seasons in 1979 and 1980 while coaching Heisman Trophy winner George Rodgers.
In 16 seasons as a collegiate coach, Carlen posted a 107-69-6 record while leading his teams to eight bowl appearances.
Following football, Carlen spent time between Columbia, S.C., and Hilton Head. He last visited Morgantown in the spring of 2011 when former coaches Bobby Bowden, Frank Cignetti and Don Nehlen were invited back for a Mountaineer coaching round-table session that took place at the Waterfront Place Hotel.
Carlen was 79.
WVU Comments on the death of Carlen
Oliver Luck: "The entire Mountaineer family is saddened to learn of the passing of former football coach Jim carlen. I met him for the first time in April, 2011 when he came back to campus and participated in our former coaches' roundtable. What a special day it was to have him along with Bobby Bowden, Frank Cignetti and Don Nehlen all on campus at one time, and it certainly was a day that I will never forget. Jim was very instrumental in the overall growth of our football program, and even after he left, he still remained interested in the Mountaineers. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Carlen family and friends."
Bobby Bowden: "I was so surprised when I was told this morning that Jim Carlen had passed away. He took me with him to West Virginia University in 1966 as his offensive coordinator when he was named the head football coach. I loved working for him for those four years at WVU before he left to take the head coaching job at Texas Tech University. I respected Jim as much as any man I knew. He was compassionate, honest and an exceptional leader. He influenced so many young coaches. Ann and I are deeply saddened; Jim will be missed very much."