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Clemson and the Alabama connections


The Greenville Standard


I’ll bet you didn’t know that there are many connections to Clemson University football from the great state of Alabama. I’m referring to coaching more specifically Clemson’s Head Coaches.

Let’s start with Walter M. Riggs who graduated from the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama (now Auburn University) and was a member of Auburn’s first football team.

He was the president of Clemson University from 1910 to 1924 and dubbed the “father of Clemson football.” Riggs coached the first football team for what was then Clemson College.

I wonder where he learned football?

William M. Williams also a graduate of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama (Auburn) served as head coach for Clemson in 1897.

John A. Penton attended the University of Virginia and Auburn and chose to play fullback at Auburn under head coach John Heisman in 1897.

He lived near the Auburn campus his entire life. Penton then served as the third head coach at Clemson for one season in 1898.

John William Heisman played and coached at Auburn and Clemson University among others, compiling a career college football record of 186–70–18.

In 1917, Heisman’s Georgia Tech Golden Tornado team was recognized as the national champions. Sportswriter Fuzzy Woodruff dubbed Heisman the “pioneer of Southern football” and we all know the prestigious award is named after him.

Frank J. Howard from Barlow Bend, Alabama graduated Murphy High School in Mobile. Howard said, “I left Barlow Bend walking barefoot on a barbed wire fence with a wildcat under each arm headed for Alabama!”

He started Wallace Wade’s 1930 team that beat Washington State 24–0 in the 1931 Rose Bowl. He was known as the “Little Giant’ of the Tide’s “Herd of Red Elephants.

Howard joined the staff at Clemson and became head coach in which he served for 30 years, amassing the 15th most wins of any college football coach and undefeated season in 1948.

Cecil W. “Hootie” Ingram of Tuscaloosa played for Alabama from 1952 to 1954 He was an All-SEC defensive back in 1952. Ingram was the head coach of Clemson from 1970 to 1972.

He was an administrator with the Southeastern Conference in the 1970s and later served as an athletic director at Florida State and Alabama.

Charles B. Pell of Albertville was recruited by Bear Bryant and played for the Bear’s first national championship team in 1961. He is most notably remembered as the head coach of Clemson and Florida.

Pell was credited with laying the foundation for the later success of both programs.

Danny Lee Ford of Gadsden played at Alabama from 1967 to 1969 under Bear Bryant. Ford was an assistant coach at Alabama and Virginia Tech before joining the staff at Clemson.

Ford served as head coach at Clemson from 1978 to 1989 compiling a career record of 122–59–5. During 12 seasons as head coach of Clemson the Tigers he won five Atlantic Coast Conference titles and six bowl games.

Ford’s 1981 Clemson team went 12–0 with a win in the Orange Bowl and was named national champions.

Under Ford Clemson had the nation’s fifth-highest winning percentage and further with a considerable string of Alabama Alum as head coaches, the phrase, “The Clemson Tide” was bandied about in the 80’s

Finally, the current Head coach William C. “Dabo” Swinney from Pelham, Alabama. Played as a walk on and earned a scholarship from (1990–1992) and was a member of Gene Stallings Crimson Tide National Championship team in 1992.

Under Gene Stallings who played for Bear Bryant, Swinney became a graduate assistant and later took over as head coach for Clemson.

Swinney has led the Tigers to two national championships in 2016 and 2018 beating Alabama. He trails only Frank Howard for the most wins by a head coach in Clemson history.

As of April, 2019, Swinney is the highest paid coach in the history of college athletics. They can’t seem to do it without us.


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