Clemson Football: Top Coaches in Tigers' History

Blake Silvers@JBlakeSilversAnalyst IIIMarch 22, 2012

Clemson Football: Top Coaches in Tigers' History

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    Throughout the storied history of Clemson football, a few head coaches have left an everlasting mark on the program.  

    A head coach often becomes the face of a university, and can define an entire era for football fans.  Clemson has had several great coaches in its history, but some were better than others.  

    Now that the current head man, Dabo Swinney, has a few years under his belt, let's take a look back at some of the greats that walked the sidelines at Death Valley.  

John Heisman (1900-1903)

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    Though his time at Clemson was short, his influence at the school is unquestionable.  

    Heisman, in his four seasons at Clemson, won two Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles before moving on to Georgia Tech. 

    John Heisman legitimized the Clemson football program at an early point in college football history, and laid the ground work for most future success. 


    Career at Clemson:

    19-3-2 overall




    College Football Hall of Fame (1954)

    Heisman Memorial Trophy named in his honor

    SIAA Championships (1900, 1902)

Jess Neely (1931-1939)

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    Though the majority of his career was spent as the coach at Rice, Jess Neely gave Clemson football stability, and was able to win a lot of games during his time there. 

    Neely helped build Clemson into a national name, by taking his Tigers to the first bowl game in school history.  Thought he used that success as a stepping stone to Rice, he deserves credit for his accomplishment at Clemson. 



    Career at Clemson

    43–35–7 overall, 18–14–2 SoCon, 1-0 in bowls




    College Football Hall of Fame (1971)

Dabo Swinney (2008-Present)

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    Dabo Swinney took over the head reigns at Death Valley after a troubled Tommy Bowden was forced out during the 2008 season.  

    The next season he had his Tigers in Tampa playing Georgia Tech for the ACC title.  Swinney's team was bested by the Yellow Jackets in that game, but Clemson was on the right track.  

    After a rough 2010 season, where Swinney's squad put up a losing record, he had a breakout season the very next year, winning the 2011 ACC Championship game.  This was Clemson's first outright title in 20 years.  



    Career at Clemson:

    29-19 overall, 19-10 ACC, 1-3 in bowls




    Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year (2011)

    ACC Championship (2011)

    ACC Atlantic Championships (2009, 2011)

Tommy Bowden (1999-2008)

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    Tommy Bowden's position on this list will likely draw some heat, but he deserves the spot.  

    Though Bowden's career ended in troubled fashion, he won a lot of football games at Clemson.  He gave the Tigers stability, and wasn't a bad recruiter either.  

    As an outside observer, it's impossible, and would be dishonest not to include Bowden on this list, and do so near the top tier of Clemson coaches all time.  



    Career at Clemson

    72-45 overall, 43-32 ACC, 3-5 in bowls




    FCA National Coach of the Year (2006)

    ACC Coach of the Year (1999, 2003)

Danny Ford (1978-1989)

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    Many readers would like to see him in the top spot on this list, since Danny Ford actually has a national title under his belt, and he certainly could have easily been first.  

    Ford is still holds a near saint-like status at Clemson, and is still very active in the athletic program.  One of many Clemson head coaches who played at Alabama, Ford was able to give Tigers fans their only national title in football to date.  

    Though he left on troubled terms, after a fallout with administration, Ford will long be held as one of the greatest in Clemson history.  



    Career at Clemson

    96-29-4 overall, 56-16-1 ACC, 6-2 in bowls




    National Championship (1981)

    ACC Championships (1981, 1982, 1986, 1987, 1988)

    AFCA Coach of the Year (1981)

    Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year (1981)

    ACC Coach of the Year (1981)

Frank Howard (1940-1969)

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    Coach Frank Howard remains the winningest coach in Clemson football history.  

    He had the longest tenure of any coach ever to walk the sidelines at death valley, and his ghost still lingers as the playing surface and the hallowed rock in the endzone both bear his name.  

    There is not need to mull over the reason's Howard deserves the top spot.  Let his numbers and legacy do the talking.  



    Career at Clemson

    165-118-12 overall, 3-3 in bowls




    College Football Hall of Fame (1989)

    ACC Coach of the Year (1958, 1966)

    SoCon Championships (1940, 1948)

    ACC Championships (1956, 1958, 1959, 1965, 1966, 1967)

Honorable Mentions

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    Charlie Pell (1977-1978)

    Josh Cody (1927-1930)

    Ken Hatfield (1990-1993)