Cougar Legend Clements Passes Away

SOURCE: CSU ATHLETICS

Frank “Sonny” Clements, the patriarch of Columbus State University Athletics, passed away peacefully at the age of 88 late Tuesday evening.

Clements was the university’s first head men’s basketball coach and served 24 years as the athletic director.

“All associated with Columbus State University Athletics are saddened to learn of the passing of Coach Clements,” said Todd Reeser, Director of Athletics. “Through his leadership, he literally established the foundation as well as the competitive success that Cougar athletics strives to build upon. He had a significant and positive impact on the lives of so many Cougar student-athletes, and our condolences go out to the Clements family.

Arriving at Columbus College in 1959, Clements became the architect of the athletic department at the recently established college. With a blank slate, he designed the blueprints and began laying the cornerstones of what has become one of the most successful NCAA Division II programs in the nation.

Columbus College saw the addition of several new sports programs under the leadership of Clements, however, he also directed the Cougars during two of the most critical transitional phases in the department’s history. Clements first oversaw CSU’s jump from a junior college to a four-year institution in 1967 before undertaking another challenge a few years later. In 1972, less than 15 years after accepting the task, Clements had turned an athletic department with no facilities, no money, and very little staff into an NCAA Division II member institution.

As a coach, Clements spent 21 seasons on the bench capturing conference championships at both the junior college and four-year level. He won a total of 286 games, including 131 at the JUCO Division, and took the Cougars to their first-ever NCAA Tournament following a 19-8 record during the 1977-78 season. For his efforts, he was named the South Atlantic Conference Coach of the Year, his third Coach of the Year award of his career.

“Coach Clements was the most kind and caring person,” commented Scott Miller, CSU’s longtime play-by-play voice. “He was a true gentleman and I am so blessed that he was my friend for 44 years.”

“He was also a great, fiery, and competitive coach, but yet he genuinely cared about the well-being of his players. He is truly a pillar of Columbus State Athletics, and I will be forever grateful to him, as well as Charles Ragsdale, for allowing me the life-changing opportunity to become their play-by-play broadcaster in 1977. My heart is broken, but I’m happy that Coach Clements has been reunited with his wife, and he’s once again able to roam the sidelines. My prayers go out to his family.”

Clements was inducted into the Columbus State Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996 as part of the inaugural class. He also played an instrumental role in the hiring of two other Cougar legends and Hall of Fame members, Charles Ragsdale and Herbert Greene, and worked hand-in-hand for decades with the matriarch of CSU Athletics, Mary V. Blackmon.

Before his time in Columbus, Clements was a two-sport standout at Georgia Teachers College (now Georgia Southern University) in baseball and basketball. A member of the 1,000-point club, Clements was inducted into the GSU Hall of Fame in 1959. He went on to play professional baseball before an injury cut short his promising career.

Visitation will be held on Sunday, June 14 from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. at McMullen Funeral Home in Columbus. A private funeral service will be held on Monday, June 15.

Categories: Georgia Sports