Former Virginia Athletics Director Jim Copeland Dies
CHARLOTTESVILLE—Former Virginia Athletics Director Jim Copeland died at his home in Charlottesville Friday night (June 4) after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 65.
Copeland was the athletics director at Virginia from September of 1987 until December of 1994. During his career in athletics administration, he also served as athletics director at William and Mary, Utah and Southern Methodist.
During Copeland’s tenure as athletics director at UVa, 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 Virginia 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 UVa athletics program was impacted significantly by Jim Copeland’s leadership as our athletics director,” said Virginia Athletics Director Craig Littlepage. “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 (NACDA). He was a past president of NACDA.
“I was fortunate to be able to work with Jim years ago when we both started in athletic administration at UVa and later as athletic directors together in the ACC,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford. “He was a very principled person with great integrity and a wonderful friend as well as professional colleague. 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 earned a bachelor’s degree in government from UVa in 1967 and a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from UVa in 1976. He was a three-year starter as an offensive lineman on the Virginia 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 as the field secretary for the Virginia Student Aid Foundation (1974-78, now the Virginia Athletics Foundation) and as an assistant athletics director at Missouri (1978-81) before being named athletics director at William and Mary in 1981.
He is survived by his wife, Susan and their children, 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, Wyoming and his wife Karly. Also surviving are his sister, Suzie Pace; his brother, Reverend Bill Copeland and wife Sherry of Charlottesville and 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, June 7, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the Hill and Wood Funeral Home in Charlottesville. Funeral services will be held on Tuesday, June 8, at 11:00 a.m. at Christ Episcopal Church, 120 W. High Street in Charlottesville.
Contributions may 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.