Steve Spurrier and Danny Ford will go into the College Football Hall of Fame together on Dec. 5 in New York City. Spurrier believes his journey there as a coach started alongside Ford as well, on Sept. 30, 1989, in Durham, N.C.
Spurrier’s 1-3 Duke team upset Ford’s seventh-ranked Clemson Tigers 21-17 that day and went on to win the Blue Devils’ only ACC title. Spurrier took the Florida job the next season and went on to become the winningest coach for the Gators and South Carolina.
“It was a turnaround game,” Spurrier told The State on Monday. “I was about a .500 ball coach when we upset Clemson. We found a running back, we found a new defense, the whole team just got inspired that day to continue on and by winning that game, it really enabled us to win the last six in a row.”
During an ESPN interview Monday, Spurrier called the upset “a career changer.”
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The National Football Foundation announced Monday morning that Spurrier, Ford and former Mount Union coach Larry Kehres will make up the 2017 coaching class of the Hall of Fame. Former South Carolina, West Virginia and Texas Tech coach Jim Carlen was also on the ballot, but was not elected.
Spurrier coached collegiately for 26 years at Duke, Florida and South Carolina, compiling a 228-89-2 record. He won the 1996 national championship as the Gators’ coach. Spurrier led the Gamecocks to their only SEC East title, three consecutive 11-win seasons and was 86-49 in 10 1/2 years at the school.
“It’s a nice award,” Spurrier said. “I thought my résumé was decent enough.”
Ford was 122-59-5 in a 16-year coaching career at Clemson and Arkansas. He won the 1981 national title with the Tigers and was 96-29-4 overall at Clemson from 1979-89. Ford didn’t return a message seeking comment on his election.
The pair rarely crossed paths much after that fateful day in 1989, Spurrier said, but Ford did speak at South Carolina’s coaches clinic one year while Spurrier was the Gamecocks coach.
“Of course, I reminisced a little bit about that game where we upset them at Duke, and he said, ‘I have to hear that damn story every time I’m around Spurrier.’ You know how he is,” Spurrier said.
Spurrier, who won the 1966 Heisman Trophy as Florida’s quarterback, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1986. He’s the fourth person to be elected to the Hall as both a player and a coach.
“I guess it is a little unusual,” he said. “My first thing was thanks to the Hall of Fame and thanks to those men who hired me when I didn’t have a job and that was several times starting with Doug Dickey at Florida, Pepper Rodgers at Georgia Tech, Red Wilson and Tom Butters at Duke, Mike McGee at South Carolina.”
Spurrier, Ford and Kehres will go into the Hall of Fame with a star-studded class of players that includes Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning, San Diego State running back Marshall Faulk, Southern Cal quarterback Matt Leinart and Georgia Southern running back Adrian Peterson (the younger brother of South Carolina outside linebackers coach Mike Peterson).
Spurrier and Manning were scheduled to be on the field at Raymond James Stadium before Monday night’s national championship. Spurrier was 3-0 as a coach against Manning’s Tennessee teams, a fact he was asked about Monday on ESPN.
“For some reason, Tennessee didn’t play real well against us,” Spurrier said. “It was the same thing when I was at South Carolina against Clemson. We were fortunate to beat them five years in a row. They didn’t play very well. They had turnovers all over the place. It seemed like our guys really just had outstanding games. Sometimes teams, when they lose two or three, they press a little bit and they just don’t play as well. I think that had something to do with it.”