Bill Ireland, 80; football coach for University of Nevada, Las Vegas

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Bill Ireland, 80, first football coach at what is now the University of Nevada, Las Vegas who later became athletic director and hired Jerry Tarkanian as basketball coach, died Tuesday at a Reno hospital, the university announced. A cause of death was not given.

Ireland, who played football and baseball while attending the University of Nevada, Reno in the late 1940s and early ‘50s, was coaching baseball at the school when he was hired to coach football at the state’s new campus in Las Vegas.

In his first season -- 1968 -- the Rebels went 8-1. Ireland went on to compile an overall record of 26-23-1 before becoming athletic director in 1973.

In his seven years of leading the athletic department, Ireland helped the campus move up to the elite Division I status in football, oversaw the creation of a women’s sports program and pushed for the construction of Sam Boyd Stadium for football and the Thomas and Mack Center for basketball and other indoor events.


In 1973 he hired Tarkanian, who led the basketball program to national prominence and an NCAA championship in 1990 but also committed recruiting violations that led to probation.

Born April 29, 1927, in McGill, Nev., Ireland served in the Navy during World War II before enrolling at the Reno campus.