‘Cy’ McClairen retires after 55 years of service to university
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
When it comes to history, legacy and tradition at Bethune-Cookman University, only the school’s founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, ranks higher than 85-year-old Jack “Cy’’ McClairen.
The longtime Wildcat retired on June 30 after 55 years of service with the institution serving in various capacities.
A small get together was held for him at B-CU’s Center for Civic Engagement last week with both current and former staff, faculty and alumni in attendance.
“It’s just time. I figured it’s time that I take my butt home,” quipped McClairen.
During his time at Bethune-Cookman, he touched many lives.
“I came back to coach football but ended up coaching basketball and being athletic director. I met regular students. I got in contact with not just athletes but students. I decided to use this to influence all students to get an education. I talked with them and let them know the position that they are in, they can do something for their lives,” McClairen told the Daytona Times last week about his long tenure at Bethune-Cookman.
He was a standout student athlete in football, basketball and track at the school in the late 1940s.
“I didn’t know if I was going to win at any sport. I added track on. We had some good football and basketball players but they just didn’t go anywhere. We didn’t get a lot of the top track athletes like other schools,” commented McClairen.
He played with the school’s all-time leading basketball scorer, John Chaney, who went on to be a legendary coach at Temple University.
“It’s great to just be recognized along with those great athletes. I get the recognition too. I couldn’t have done it by myself. We had other athletes that were good in both basketball and football,” McClairen noted.
Celebrated head coach
He also served as Bethune-Cookman’s head coach in both football and basketball. In basketball, he won over 300 games.
“It’s been great,” he said about his career at the school. “When I first coached, they didn’t really know about me. I never coached before. I taught the men how to be men. My secretaries were students. I had three or four at a time because they had to take classes,” McClairen explained.
Throughout the years, McClairen has seen athletics gain national attention and TV appearances; in addition, the college became a university with worldwide acclaim.
“It makes me feel good and it makes me proud. I’ve seen this school grow. When I played here, we were an NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) school, and when I coached we were Division II. I didn’t often get to play against or coach against the big boys but now our kids do.
I’m glad of the notoriety that we get,” McClairen commented.
He also helped build the school’s golf program into a prominent historically Black college and university (HBCU) national championship, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) championship and NCAA tournament contender.
“We had a coach who was playing professionally with the PGA. He needed someone that he could keep communicate with and get things done, so he asked me to help him out. That’s how we got started,” McClairen said about the school’s golf program.
Those who got to work closely with him will forever feel his impact.
“Cy is our rock and well-spring of knowledge and wisdom. He has given his heart and soul to this institution. He is in the DNA of this university. You can’t spell legacy without ‘C-Y,’’ said Lynn Thompson B-CU’s vice president and director of athletics.
Longtime school photographer John Reeves was an All-American high school basketball player recruited by McClairen.
“Cy is one hell of a coach. You don’t win 300 games without being great. He did a lot of things that probably changed the rules like bringing in shot clocks,” Reeves remarked.
David Howard Sr. is a former B-CU player and the current head coach at both Atlantic High and Campbell Middle schools.
“It’s an honor to have played for him. I got to see him coach when I was playing in high school,” Howard stated. “He didn’t recruit me, but he did let me play for him after I transferred from an NAIA school. I had to sit out a year, but he let me take on a role as an assistant coach. I learned coaching from him.’’