Former Athletics Director Jim Copeland Dies

June 6, 2010 — Former University of Virginia athletics director Jim Copeland died at his home in Charlottesville on June 4 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 65.

Copeland was U.Va.'s athletics director from September 1987 until December 1994. During his career in athletics administration, he also served as athletics director at the College of William and Mary, the University of Utah and Southern Methodist University.

During his tenure at U.Va., the Cavaliers won five national championships in men's soccer and two in women's lacrosse. In addition, the men's basketball team won the 1992 National Invitation Tournament, the football team played in six bowl games, and U.Va. made NCAA Final Four appearances in women's basketball (three times), men's lacrosse (twice), women's lacrosse (twice) and women's soccer.

"The growth of the U.Va. athletics program was impacted significantly by Jim Copeland's leadership as our athletics director," said Craig Littlepage, U.Va. director of intercollegiate athletics programs. "His vision started facilities development like the McCue Center, Klöckner Stadium and the Aquatic & Fitness Center.

"Jim's biggest contributions, however, were in his character, integrity and his professionalism. He was enthusiastic in his attention to the welfare of all student-athletes, particularly in matters related to equity.

"I will greatly miss his guidance, his friendship and his wonderful sense of humor."

Copeland was a member of the 2009 Hall of Fame class for the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. He was a past president of the association.

John Swofford, Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner, worked with Copeland when they both started in athletics administration at U.Va. and later in the ACC.

"He was a very principled person with great integrity, and he was a wonderful friend as well as professional colleague," Swofford said. "I have long appreciated Jim for his leadership and vision and my thoughts and prayers go out to Susan and his entire family."

A native of Charlottesville and a graduate of Lane High School, Copeland was a double 'Hoo, with a bachelor's degree in government in 1967 and a master's in guidance and counseling in 1976. He was a three-year starter as an offensive lineman on the U.Va. football team and was selected in the 10th round of the 1967 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns. Copeland played for the Browns from 1967-74, appearing in the NFL championship games against the Baltimore Colts in 1968 and the Minnesota Vikings in 1969.

He also served from 1974 to 1978 as the field secretary for the Virginia Student Aid Foundation, now the Virginia Athletics Foundation, and as an assistant athletics director at the University of Missouri from 1978 to 1981, before being named athletics director at William and Mary in 1981. 

He is survived by his wife, Susan; daughter Jennie Copeland Carter and her husband Rich of Charlottesville; son Wyatte James "Trey" Copeland III of Crozet and his wife Brandy; and son Matthew Copeland of Lander, Wyo., and his wife Karly.  Also surviving are his sister, Suzie Pace; his brother, the Rev. Bill Copeland, and wife Sherry of Charlottesville; six grandchildren, Kelsey Carter, Garland Carter, Wyatte Copeland IV, Grant Copeland, Evan Copeland and Everett Copeland; and beloved nieces and nephews.

The family will receive friends on Monday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Hill and Wood Funeral Home in Charlottesville. The funeral will be held on Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Christ Episcopal Church, 120 W. High St., Charlottesville.

Contributions can be made to the W. James Copeland Jr. Jefferson Scholarship at the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, P.O. Box 400891, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4891; Peace Lutheran Church, 1510 Broad Crossing Road, Charlottesville,VA 22911 or Hospice of the Piedmont, 675 Peter Jefferson Parkway, Suite 300, Charlottesville VA 22911.