April 29, 1927|
|Died||July 31, 2007
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|Head coaching record|
Willis "Coach I" Ireland (April 29, 1927 – July 31, 2007) was an American college football and baseball coach in Nevada. He was the first head coach of the UNLV Rebels football team, UNLV athletic director and founder of the Battle for the Fremont Cannon. Additionally, he was head baseball coach at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Ireland was born in remote McGill, Nevada, 330 miles (530 km) east of Reno, Nevada. As the coach of the 1966 Wolfpack baseball team, he managed Fred Dallimore, who later coached the UNLV baseball team, and is the father of former San Francisco Giants player Brian Dallimore. In 1967 Chub Drakulich hired Ireland to start the UNLV football program. During their inaugural 1968 season, the Rebels were undefeated until the last game of the season. The rebels lost their first match against in-state rivals UNR. Ireland, wanting an award to symbolize the rivalry, obtained a replica of the Howitzer John C. Fremont had brought with him in his expedition to Nevada. Nineteen seventy marked the first Battle for the Cannon, with UNLV avenging their loss and evening the series. After a disappointing 1–10 record in 1972, Ireland resigned his coaching position.
In 1973 Ireland became the athletic director of UNLV. In this position he hired Jerry Tarkanian as the UNLV basketball coach. He was also instrumental in the construction of both the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas and the Lawlor Events Center in Reno. In 1990, his wife Jeanne Ireland was the Democratic Party's candidate for lieutenant governor; she lost by 15%.
Ireland is a member of both the UNLV and UNR Halls of Fame. On October 8, 2012, Governor Brian Sandoval announced that one student-athlete a year from the University of Nevada will receive the "Bill Ireland Award."
- Clifton, Guy (8 October 2012). "Honoring 'Coach I' a terrific part of Governor's Series". Reno Gazette-Journal. Reno, Nevada. (subscription required)
- "Obituary: Bill Ireland, 80; football coach for University of Nevada, Las Vegas". The Los Angeles Times. 2 August 2007. Archived from the original on 11 October 2012. Note: Archive available mid-2013.
- "NV Lt. Governor Race - Nov 06, 1990 (general Election)". Our Campaigns. Archived from the original on 11 October 2012. Note: Archive available mid-2013.
- "Bill Ireland - Inducted 1999". Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 30 April 2010.