Oct. 9, 2000
By Tim Bourret Sports Information DirectorThe NC State Game Program – October 7, 2000
Clemson was founded in 1889 and just seven years later it fielded an intercollegiate football team. In the program’s fifth season a future Hall of Fame coach, one of the most famous in the history of the game, guided the Tigers to an undefeated season.
That opening paragraph demonstrates the importance of intercollegiate sports throughout Clemson’s history.
Clemson athletics dates to 1896 when the school fielded a football team and a baseball team. In 1900, John Heisman coached the Tigers to a 6-0 record, including wins over South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. Heisman put Clemson football on the map in the sport’s infancy, as he posted a 19-3-2 record in his four seasons at the helm, still the best winning percentage in Clemson football history.
The man they named the Heisman Trophy after also coached the Clemson baseball team to a 76 percent winning mark between 1901-04. That is still the highest winning percentage in Clemson baseball history. Behind the play of its first All-American, O.K. Pressley, the Tiger football team won eight games for the first time in 1928 and 1929.
But, like many other schools, Clemson athletics was having a negative reaction to the depression. In the 1931 football season Clemson won just one game and scored a total of 19 points for the entire season. But, the support of its fan base brought the Tigers back to success when IPTAY was founded in 1934. During the coaching tenure of Jess Neely, America’s first scholarship fund raising organization was born, as 160 Tiger supporters gave $10 a year to the organization, hence the “I Pay Ten A Year,” name.
With IPTAY providing financial support, the program improved over the second half of the 1930s, highlighted by a 9-1 campaign in the decade’s final year. Clemson was ranked 12th in the nation in the final Associated Press poll and was invited to the Cotton Bowl to face Frank Leahy’s Boston College Eagles.
All-American Banks McFadden led the Tigers to a thrilling and landmark 6-3 victory. It culminated quite a year for McFadden, who was an All-American in football and basketball in 1939, and was named the nation’s Most Versatile Athlete. He was the star of Clemson’s 1939 Southern Conference basketball championship.
After the season McFadden was the number-four pick of the NFL draft by the Brooklyn Dodgers. He ranked second in the NFL in yards per carry in 1940. McFadden, also a standout in track, is still revered as Clemson’s greatest all-around athlete.
Frank Howard began a 30-year reign as Clemson’s Head Football Coach and Athletic Director in 1940. He won his first five games and coached Clemson to the Southern Conference Championship in his first year. Eight times he led Clemson to the conference championship in his colorful career, including undefeated seasons in 1948 and 1950. He retired in 1969 with 165 victories, still the most in Clemson history. He had 63 players drafted into the NFL and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989.
Heisman, Neely and Howard, set the foundation for Clemson football and the overall athletic program. The firm foundation allowed the program to reach unprecedented heights in the 1970s and 1980s. From 1977 to 1991 Clemson played in a bowl game 11 times.
That era of success included Clemson’s most celebrated athletic accomplishment, the 1981 National Championship. Danny Ford’s Tigers had a perfect 12-0 record that included three wins over top 10 teams.
During the regular season the Tigers defeated 1980 champion and fourth ranked Georgia, 13-3, in the highest ranked victory in the history of Death Valley. The season culminated with a 22-15 nationally televised victory over Nebraska. That Clemson team was led by All-Americans Terry Kinard, Jeff Bryant, Perry Tuttle and Jeff Davis.
Clemson continued its excellence on the gridiron in the 1980s and 1990s. The Tigers had six straight seasons with just two losses from 1986-91 and won bowl games five consecutive years between 1986-90. Among the programs Clemson defeated between 1978-89 were Penn State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame. Clemson still stands among the top 20 schools in NCAA history in total bowl victories and bowl winning percentage.
While football has been the sport that has attained the most notoriety on the Clemson athletic landscape, the entire program has experienced success on a national basis for many years. Clemson’s affiliation with the Atlantic Coast Conference, a charter member in 1953-54, had as much to do with this success as anything.
The league membership certainly has brought notoriety to the Clemson basketball program. Clemson has been a mainstay when it comes to postseason play over the last 25 years. The 1980 Clemson team advanced to the NCAA Final Eight, while the 1990 club won the ACC regular season championship. Most recently the 1996-97 team finished eighth in the nation in the final poll.
In the early 1970s, under athletic director Bill McLellan, Clemson put an emphasis on excellence in all intercollegiate athletics. Sports were added, most notably in the area of women’s athletics in the middle 1970s, facilities were added and enhanced. The consistent and loyal contributions of IPTAY members allowed the program to offer the full compliment of scholarships in every sport sponsored by the department.
Clemson was consistently among the top programs in the nation in the 1970s, highlighted by a number-three national finish in the all-sports poll of 1979-80. That year Clemson was the only school in the nation to go to a bowl games, the NCAA basketball tournament and the College World Series.
Of the 19 sports sponsored by Clemson at the moment, 15 have experienced a national top 10 finish, all within the last 20 years. All-Americans and top 25 national rankings, plus ACC Championships, are a significant part of the school’s history, as the performance chart on this page attests.
The Tiger baseball team has one of the strongest traditions in the South. Under Bill Wilhelm from 1958-93, the program never had a losing season. In his 36 years Wilhelm won an ACC record 1161 games, made six trips to the College World Series and won 19 ACC regular season titles. His teams finished in the top 25 of the national polls 16 times. The program has continued to flourish under current coach Jack Leggett, who has averaged close to 50 wins and brought Clemson to the College World Series three times since 1994.
Clemson’s soccer program did not begin until 1967, but has been one of the strongest programs at Clemson, winning 12 ACC titles and posting 21 top 25 seasons in 34 years. Under Coach Dr. I.M. Ibraham, Clemson won national championships in 1984 and 1987. The program has also featured two national player of the year recipients, Bruce Murray (1987) and Wojtek Krakowiak (1998).
The Clemson tennis program has posted 11 ACC championships and 13 top 25 seasons under Head Coach Chuck Kriese. He has coached more national player of the year selections than any other Clemson coach. Bob Pollock’s accomplishments with the men’s track program have been extraordinary since 1988. His 19 ACC Coach of the Year selections is more than any other Clemson coach in any sport. He has also coached more national champions than any other coach.
The Clemson golf program has been to 19 straight NCAA national tournaments, something only Oklahoma State can also claim. The program has featured US Amateur Champion Chris Patton (1989), NCAA Champion Charles Warren (1997) and US Public Links Champions Kevin Johnson (1988) and D.J. Trahan (2000). Larry Penley has been the coach for the last 17 years and brought Clemson 15 top 20 seasons, including a number-two finish in 1998.
Women’s athletics have continued to prosper since they began competition in 1975. Clemson’s women’s basketball program has been among the best in the nation for 25 years, first under Annie Tribble, and now Jim Davis. The program has recorded 12 Top 20 seasons. Under Jim Davis Clemson has gone to the NCAA Tournament twelve times in the last 13 years.
The play of Barbara Kennedy from 1978-82, still the ACC’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, set a standard of excellence that few athletes in any sport have duplicated. In September, she was the first female athlete inducted into the Clemson Ring of Honor.
The Clemson women’s soccer team is emerging as a program of national prominence. In September of this year they defeated perennial National Champion and number-one ranked North Carolina 2-1 at Riggs Field. The team is currently ranked number-two in the nation. The program began in 1994 and has reached the NCAA Tournament and has been ranked among the nation’s top 15 teams every year.
The women’s volleyball team completed a 31-3 seasons in 1999 that featured a top 10 final RPI ranking. Under current head coach Jolene Hoover, the program won the ACC Tournament championship in 1997 and the regular season title in 1999.
Mitzi Kremer was a four-time NCAA swimming Champion in the 200 free and 500 free between 1987-89, the only four-time NCAA champion in Clemson athletics history.
In 1980, Noel Loban became Clemson’s first individual National Champion in any sport when he won the 190-pound weight class at the NCAA wrestling meet. It began a flood of national titles for Clemson.
Entering the 2000-01 academic year, Clemson had three team national titles (football in 1981 and men’s soccer in 1984 and 1987) and had 23 individual national championship performances in eight different sports. Clemson’s excellence in all areas has continued under Bobby Robinson, the department’s director since 1985. Under his watch, Clemson has won 19 of its 23 national championships.
Clemson athletes are known nationwide for their accomplishments at Clemson, but the school’s reputation has been enhanced by their success as professionals. Clemson had a record seven former basketball players in the NBA in 1999-00, while seven former baseball players were in the major leagues. Seventeen former Tigers are on NFL rosters in 2000.
Clemson has had a member of the Super Bowl Championship team 25 times, including two, Tony Horne and Dexter McCleon, on the 1999 champion St. Louis Rams. Recent Clemson Hall of Fame inductee Jeff Bostic was a three-time winner with the Washington Redskins. Horace Grant represented the Clemson basketball program with distinction when he was a member of the World Champion Chicago Bulls between 1991-93. Jimmy Key headlines a list of four former Tigers who were members of World Series Championship teams.
Clemson Historical Performance Chart
Clemson National Champions
Clemson’s Professional World Champions
Clemson’s Four-time First-team All-ACC Selections
Clemson wins over Number-one Ranked Teams Clemson’s women’s soccer win over #1 ranked North Carolina marked the 20th time in the school’s sports history that the Tigers had gained a win over the #1 ranked team in the nation. It was the first time since the baseball team won over #1 ranked Florida State in Tallahassee on April 10, 1999. The women’s soccer team’s victory was the first time Clemson had beaten a #1 team on the Clemson campus since Feb. 15, 1992 when the Lady Tiger women’s basketball team defeated a #1 ranked Maryland team, 72-55. The baseball program has nine wins over the #1 ranked team. The men’s soccer program is second with five #1 wins.
April 13, 2021