CLEMSON — Legendary coaches Bill Wilhelm and Danny Ford will be inducted into the Clemson Athletics Ring of Honor this fall. Both will be recognized at a home football, and Wilhelm – who will be inducted posthumously – also will be honored at a baseball game next spring.
The Ring of Honor is the highest award bestowed by the Clemson athletic department. An inductee must be a member of the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame, have an undergraduate degree from a four-year institution, and have made a significant impact on the heritage of Clemson athletic history.
“I am very appreciative of this honor. I feel a coach is less deserving of something like this than a player. They are the ones who did all the blocking and tackling; the coaches just try to direct them and draw up the plays,” said Ford, who added praise for Wilhelm. “I could not think of a better person to go into the Ring of Honor with than Bill Wilhelm. … What a great man who had such a positive influence on so many young men over 36 years.”
Wilhelm and Ford combined for 16 ACC Championships, 23 top 25 seasons, and 25 postseason appearances. Wilhelm led the Clemson baseball team to six College World Series appearances and eight top eight finishes in final polls. Ford coached Clemson in eight bowl games. That included the 1982 Orange Bowl when he led Clemson to its most significant football victory, a 22-15 win over Nebraska that brought the program its first national championship in any sport.
Both coaches got off to great starts at Clemson at a very young age. Wilhelm coached Clemson to its first College World Series appearance in 1958 at the age of 29, his first season as a head coach at any level. Ford became Clemson’s head coach at age 30 and led the Tigers to the national championship in 1981 at 33. Ford remains the youngest coach in college football history to win a DI national championship.
Neither coach had a losing season in their Clemson tenure, Wilhelm more than 36 years and Ford more than 11.
Wilhelm coached Clemson for 36 years (1958-93) and finished his career with a record of 1161-536-10, a .683 winning percentage. Twenty years after his retirement, he’s still the winningest coach in ACC history. He also still holds the conference mark for ACC Championships with 11 and for regular season titles with 19. Since his death in 2010, Wilhelm has been named to the Clemson Hall of Fame, the state of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame and the National College Baseball Hall of Fame.
Ford took over as Clemson’s head coach for the 1978 Gator Bowl against Ohio State and guided the Tigers to a 17-15 win over Ohio State. The highlight of his career took place in 1981 when he led Clemson to a perfect 12-0 record, the only perfect season in the nation that year. Three of the wins were over top 10 teams Georgia, North Carolina and Nebraska. After that season he was named National Coach of the Year by United Press International, the Football Writers Association and the American Football Coaches Association. Ford finished his Clemson career with a 96-29-4 record (last game of 1978 through 1989).
Ford is the ninth player, coach or administrator to be inducted into the Clemson Football Ring of Honor. Previously honored were Banks McFadden, Frank Howard, Steve Fuller, Jerry Butler, Terry Kinard, Jeff Davis, Fred Cone and Bob Bradley.
Wilhelm will be the second person inducted into the Clemson Baseball Ring of Honor. He will join one of his former players, three-time All-American Rusty Adkins, who played for Wilhelm from 1965-67.
“Clemson is a special place to me and always will be,” Ford said.