April 23, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
Long-time University of Alabama coach and athletics administrator Clem Gryska passed away on Monday after brief illness.
"It's so sad to hear the news," said UA Director of Athletics Mal Moore, who coached with Gryska at Alabama for many years. "Clem was a lot of fun to be around. He gave everybody support. He and (former UA assistant coach) Dude Hennessey were very close. It was always fun to gather in Clem's office and reminisce and laugh. He will be missed by every player that joined the team in those days."
A native of Steubenville, Ohio, Gryska was a football player at Alabama from 1945-48, earning varsity letters in 1947-48. He was a freshman on the 1945 team that defeated Southern California in the Rose Bowl by a score of 34-14.
Originally a T formation quarterback in high school, Gryska was recruited to Alabama by head coach Frank Thomas and finished the final two seasons of his playing career as an end under head coach Harold "Red" Drew.
Having lost most of his right hand in a childhood accident, Gryska did not qualify for military service in World War II and joined the Crimson Tide in 1945 after originally signing to play at Northwestern University. That began an association with Crimson Tide athletics that would span much of the remainder of Gryska's life.
After graduation from Alabama, Gryska served as an assistant football coach at Huntsville (Ala.) High School for two seasons (1949-50) before becoming head football coach at Emma Sansom High School in Gadsden, Ala., from 1951-53. Gryska then returned to Huntsville High School as head football coach from 1954-60 before joining head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant's staff at Alabama in 1960.
Gryska served as head freshman coach and recruiting coordinator for Bryant at Alabama from 1960-76 before becoming an assistant athletic director for the Tide and, later, as an administrative adviser to the athletic department. After he retired from the athletic department, Gryska worked at the Bryant Museum on the UA campus for many years.
"He was a father figure to every player that came through here, a kind man," Moore said. "He was so involved with each freshman class, recruiting the players. He'll be missed by many. He had great connections to the high school coaches in the state. He did a super job of helping to coordinate our recruiting efforts through the years.
"He coached the freshmen every year. Everyone was scared to death and homesick. He was the father figure. He was dearly loved by every player."
Gryska was married to the late Alice Scott. The couple had three children - twins Ted and Debby, and another son, Greg.
Funeral arrangements for Clem Gryska are pending.