Former Arkansas coach Danny Ford elected to College Football Hall of Fame

By: Matt Jones
Published: January 9, 2017 at 9:36 a.m. - Updated: January 9, 2017 at 4:18 p.m.
Former Arkansas coach Danny Ford listens during a press conference for the Burlsworth Trophy on Aug. 23, 2010 in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
Former Arkansas coach Danny Ford listens during a press conference for the Burlsworth Trophy on Aug. 23, 2010 in Fayetteville.

— Danny Ford had a losing record in his final head coaching job, but it did little to deter from his legacy as one of his era's most successful college football coaches.

Ford, who coached Arkansas to a 26-30-1 record from 1993-97, was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame on Monday. He will be inducted with 12 others - including former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning, Florida quarterback and coach Steve Spurrier, San Diego State running back Marshall Faulk and Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson - during a Dec. 5 banquet in New York.

The College Football Hall of Fame is located in Atlanta.

"I have to thank, No. 1, the University of Alabama, which gave me a scholarship to play football; and Virginia Tech (where Ford was an assistant) … and then Clemson, of course, where I spent the majority of my time coaching, and Arkansas," Ford said Monday. "I wouldn't have the qualification for number of wins if I hadn't coached at Arkansas.

"It all goes back to the players and coaches. You have to surround yourself with good people. I think the head coach probably does less coaching than anybody on the staff."

Prior to his time at Arkansas, Ford was considered one of college football's best coaches. He went 96-29-4 in 11 seasons at Clemson from 1979-89.

He coached the Tigers' final game of the 1978 season after Charley Pell left for the head coaching job at Florida. In Ford's first game, Clemson upset Ohio State 17-15 in the Fiesta Bowl, a game remembered best for legendary Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes punching one of Ford's players. Hayes was fired the next day.

In 1981, Ford won the Tigers' first national championship with an undefeated season that was capped with a win over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. At 33 years old, he was the youngest coach to ever win a football national championship. Clemson went on to win four more ACC championships under Ford, including three straight from 1986-88.

Ford resigned at Clemson following the 1989 season in the midst of an NCAA investigation into the program (he was never implicated of any wrongdoing). At the time of his resignation, Ford had the third-highest win percentage in college football behind Tom Osborne at Nebraska and Joe Paterno at Penn State.

In 1992, Ford was brought to Arkansas as a consultant to Joe Kines, who took over as the Razorbacks' interim coach the second week of the season. Jack Crowe had been fired after Arkansas' first game that year - a 10-3 loss to The Citadel.

Ford was hired as the Razorbacks' head coach following the season and in 1993 became the first Arkansas coach to spend a full season in the SEC.

The Razorbacks went 5-5-1 in Ford's first season and 4-7 the following year.

In 1995, Arkansas lost to SMU in the season opener, but won eight of its next nine to earn the program's first SEC western division championship. The run included Arkansas' first wins over Alabama - Ford's alma mater - and Auburn.

The Razorbacks lost 34-3 to Florida in the SEC Championship Game and 20-10 to North Carolina in the Carquest Bowl - the only postseason games in Ford's tenure with the program.

Arkansas recorded back-to-back 4-7 seasons following its division championship, and Ford was fired following a loss to LSU in the 1997 season finale.

“We did all we could here,” Ford said in 2010 when he returned to Fayetteville for the first time since he moved away following his firing. “It was time.”

Many of Ford's recruits were the backbone of winning seasons the two years after he was fired. The Razorbacks went 9-3 in 1998 and 8-4 in 1999.

“It was great to see those Arkansas kids grow,” Ford said. “They got whipped enough to fight back.”

Ford never coached again after he was fired at Arkansas and eventually moved back to his family farm in South Carolina. He finished his career with a 122-59-5 record.

“It’s a young person’s occupation," Ford, now 68, told USA Today in a 2015 interview.

“I’ve learned there are more things in life than being a football coach, and a lot of people never learn that.”

Ford has also been enshrined in the Clemson, Orange Bowl, Peach Bowl, State of Alabama Sports and State of South Carolina Sports halls of fame.

Others elected in this year's College Football Hall of Fame class include former Southern Cal quarterback Matt Leinart, Notre Dame linebacker Bob Crable, Michigan State receiver Kirk Gibson, Texas offensive lineman Bob McKay, Texas A&M linebacker Dat Nguyen, Boston College offensive lineman Mike Ruth, New Mexico linebacker Brian Urlacher and Mount Union coach Larry Kehres.

Former Arkansas defensive lineman Dan Hampton was one of 75 finalists on this year's hall of fame ballot, but was not elected for induction. Hampton, along with Lance Alworth, is one of two former Razorbacks enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Tom Murphy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette contributed

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