The announcement was made Friday by Ring of
Honor Committee Chairman Tim Bourret. Both will be recognized at a Clemson home
football game this season. Wilhelm, who will be inducted posthumously, also will
be honored at a Clemson 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.
Wilhelm and Ford combined for 16 ACC Championships, 23 top 25 seasons, and 25
postseason appearances. Wilhelm took the Clemson baseball team to six College
World Series and eight top eight finishes in final polls. Ford coached Clemson
in eight bowl games, including the 1982 Orange Bowl when he led Clemson to its
most significant football victory, a 22-15 win over Nebraska that brought the
Tigers program its first National Championship in any sport.
Both coaches got off to great starts to their respective Clemson careers 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. He took the Tigers to the College World Series again in 1959.
Ford became Clemson's head coach at age 30, his first head coaching job at
any level, and led the Tigers to the National Championship in 1981 at the age of
33, still the youngest coach in college football history to win a Division I
Neither coach had a losing season in their Clemson tenure, Wilhelm over 36
years and Ford over 11. Both guided Clemson through every season of their
respective sports during the 1980s. Wilhelm won the ACC Championship and 45
games in his final year in 1993. Ford's final team (1989) had a 10-2 record and
finished 12th in the final AP poll.
When Wilhelm retired he was the fifth winningest active coach in college
baseball in terms of total wins. When Ford retired he was the third winningest
active coach in college football in terms of winning percentage.
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 is still the winningest coach in ACC baseball history. He also
still holds the conference mark for ACC Championships with 11 and for regular
season titles with 19, a record that may never be broken. He coached Clemson to
the ACC regular season or tournament championship 10 consecutive years from
One of the most impressive facts about Wilhelm is that he had some of his
most successful teams at the end of his tenure. Each of his last seven teams
were chosen for the NCAA Tournament and five of them ranked in the top 15,
including his 1991 team that won an ACC record 60 games. He averaged 50 wins a
year over his last seven seasons.
Wilhelm coached players flourished under his guidance and he had 97 players
drafted, a figure that would have been higher had there been a draft in his
first eight years as head coach (MLB draft began in 1965). Eighty-eight times
his players were named first-team All-ACC and he coached 20 All-Americans.
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 Woody Hayes's Buckeye team. Ford
also defeated Hall of Fame coaches Joe Paterno (Penn State), Barry Switzer
(Oklahoma), Tom Osborne (Nebraska) and Don Nehlen (West Virginia) in bowl
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
The Tigers followed with records of 9-1-1 in 1982 and 1983, giving the Tigers
a 30-2-2 record over a three-year period, the best record in college football.
In each of his last four seasons (1986-89) the Tigers lost only two games each
year and the Tigers won 10 games in each of his last three. Clemson won
consecutive ACC titles in 1986-87-88 and won bowl games in each of his last four
The Tigers had an 87-25-4 record in the decade of the 1980s and the .767
winning percentage was fifth best in college football for that decade. Ford
finished his Clemson career with a 96-29-4 record (last game of 1978 through
Ford's five ACC Championships rank second in Clemson football history in
terms of total league titles behind the six Frank Howard accumulated in the
Southern Conference and ACC between 1940-69.
Like Wilhelm, players realized significant accomplishments under Ford's
guidance. Fifty-seven of his Clemson players went on to play in the NFL,
including 11 who played on Super Bowl Championship teams. Seventy-one times his
players were named first-team All-ACC and 26 of his players earned first, second
or third team All-America honors. Two of the All-Americans, Terry Kinard and
Jeff Davis, are in the College Football Hall of Fame.
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
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.
Danny Ford on Induction into the Ring of
"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.
"My first thoughts on hearing this are to all the players, assistant coaches,
the fans, the support staff people, the trainers and managers, the SID staff,
and Jim Phillips (voice of the Tigers Ford's entire career) who helped make us
successful on the field. If they look up in the stadium and see my name and it
gives them pride for what we accomplished I am for it.
"I also want to thank the professors that were at Clemson University during
my career who educated our young men. I am just as proud of my former players
who have been successful in fields outside of athletics as I am of the ones who
played professional football.
"Finally, I want to thank those individuals who made this possible, including
members of the Board of Trustees.
"Clemson is a special place to me and always will be. "
Ford on Coach Bill Wilhelm
"I could not think of
a better person to go into the Ring of Honor with than Bill Wilhelm. When I
first became the head football coach he was someone I looked to for guidance.
Everyone had so much respect for him. He certainly helped me when I took this
job at age 30.
"And I could see that respect for him wherever I went. What a great man who
had such a positive influence on so many young men over 36 years."