Bill Ireland, a native Nevadan and longtime coach at both the University of Nevada, Reno and UNLV, has died.
Friends and family said Ireland had been in failing health. He died Tuesday in Reno at the age of 80. Services were pending.
Ireland was born and raised in McGill, a tiny town in rural White Pine County, and graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1952.
Throughout his career, he coached high school football, basketball and track at Fernley and South Lake Tahoe before he was hired in 1960 as head baseball and freshman football coach at Nevada.
In 1967, he was hired to run the fledgling football program at Nevada Southern in Las Vegas, which eventually became UNLV.
In his first season, he coached the team to an 8-1 record.
"He was one of those guys that was a real father figure," Bill Casey, the school's first quarterback, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "He wasn't a yeller or a screamer. He was just a real solid coach with a very innovative mind."
He later became UNLV's athletic director and hired Jerry Tarkanian, launching the Runnin' Rebels reign as a powerhouse in basketball.
Friends said Ireland was dedicated to his players, family and Nevada.
"For me, there were two guys in my life that were important: my dad and Bill Ireland," said Fred Dallimore, a Reno native and member of the athletic halls of fame at both Nevada and UNLV.
Ireland, who also was instrumental in the building of both Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas and Lawlor Events Center in Reno, supported both Nevada and UNLV athletics and avoided the rivalry
that developed in recent years.
"He was one of the finest men I ever knew," Nevada football coach Chris Ault told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "My collegiate career wouldn't have started without his stamp.
"He was just a very good person who touched the lives of many of us that had the pleasure of being coached by him and working with him," Ault said.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)