Jan. 12, 2009
Remembering Jim Kelly Sr. | Send Your Condolences | Memorial Information
CINCINNATI - Jim Kelly Sr., one of the legends of the University of Cincinnati Department of Athletics, died Jan. 12 at the age of 81.
Kelly was a member of the Bearcats family for the past 50 years, as a student-athlete, coach, administrator, and fan.
"The loss of Jim Sr. is a monumental one for the entire UC family," Director of Athletics Mike Thomas said. "He was one of the giants in our program's long history. We will miss his guidance and spirit. Our condolences go out to the entire Kelly family."
Kelly starred as a receiver for the Bearcats from 1947-50, playing on two Sid Gillman-coached Mid-American Conference Championship teams in 1949 and 1950. Kelly was a two-time all-MAC selection in 1949 and 1950. He led the team in receiving during both championship seasons, grabbing 42 catches for 468 yards and two touchdowns in 1949, and making 29 catches for 455 yards and nine scores in 1950.
Kelly holds the distinction of having the first 100-yard receiving game in school history. He tallied 108 yards in a 14-7 loss at Kentucky on Oct. 29, 1949. He closed his career out in possession of eight school records.
Kelly also played on the UC baseball team for several years under coach Hank Zureick. Following his graduation in 1951, he served a two-year stint in the U.S. Army Signal Corps as a supply sergeant.
The football team's annual Jim Kelly Award recognizes the UC player who each year exemplifies the winning attitude of the trophy's namesake. Past winners include Dustin Grutza, Lamonte Nelms, Mike Daniels, and Artrell Hawkins.
He later served as an assistant coach for the football team from 1960-76. As a testament to his loyalty and coaching abilities, Kelly served under five different head coaches. As a receivers coach, he helped developed Tom Rossley and Jim O'Brien, the student-athletes who re-wrote the records Kelly had set as a player.
"We've lost an icon at the University of Cincinnati," head coach Brian Kelly
said. "Jim Sr. was beloved by all of those in contact with him and he will always be remembered as a legend in our football program. Our hearts and prayers go out to the Kelly family."
From 1977 until his retirement in 1994, he worked as an assistant athletic director for operations and management.
He was instrumental in the creation of UC's athletics hall of fame, which is named after him, and the growth of the C-Club lettermen's association. He also played major roles in planning and coordinating the construction of the Shoemaker Center and the renovation of Nippert Stadium.
Kelly, born Nov. 22, 1927, is survived by Jeanne, his wife of 58 years. They have six children - Jim Jr., Michael, Karen, Chris, Dave, and Diane, all UC graduates.
Jim Jr., a standout receiver from 1973-75, serves as the color analyst on UC football radio broadcasts. Diane was an all-America diver for the Bearcats in 1990.