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Charley Pell; Coach Left Clouded Legacy at Florida

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Charley Pell, who brought success and scandal to the University of Florida football program before he disappeared from coaching after resigning amid controversy in 1984, died Tuesday near his home in Southside, Ala. He was 60.

Pell, a longtime heavy smoker who had been suffering from cancer in his pancreas and other organs since last fall, died at a Gadsden hospital, said John Marshall, a spokesman at the company where Pell worked.

Though he resigned in shame, Pell helped lay the foundation that later turned Florida into a national power.

A former two-way lineman at Alabama, where he was part of legendary coach Bear Bryant’s first national championship team in 1961, Pell coached Florida to a 33-26-3 record and four bowl appearances from 1979 to 1984.

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But three games into the 1984 season, after the NCAA had levied 59 sanctions against the program, Pell confessed to the violations that sparked the sanctions and resigned.

“I took the blame for everything to exonerate every other coach on the staff,” Pell told the Orlando Sentinel last month. “I always believed I did too good a job of that. All it did was cause a lot of grief.”

Pell was back in the headlines in 1993, when he attempted suicide in Jacksonville but was rescued by a state trooper who found his suicide note.

Two years later, Pell returned briefly to coaching, compiling a 1-9 record at Lake Region High School near Lakeland, Fla.

Pell, who had coached at Jacksonville State in Alabama and Clemson before landing at Florida, was a finalist for jobs at Alabama Birmingham and Louisville but never got a second chance.

He moved last year to Southside, about 20 miles from his hometown of Albertville in northern Alabama, to be close to his children and grandchildren. He took a job as a vice president at National Auction Group.

He leaves a clouded legacy. “The mistakes Charley made overshadowed the good,” Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley told the Orlando Sentinel last month. “Unfortunately, that’s the way of the world.”

Pell is survived by Ward, his wife of 32 years, three children and two grandchildren.

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