Former Arkansas coach Danny Ford was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame on Monday. Ford led the Razorbacks for five seasons in the mid-90s, winning Arkansas’ first SEC West title in 1995 (the first non-Alabama team to win the West), but he’s best known as Clemson’s head coach throughout the 80s, where he won a national title in 1981.
It may seem as though winning the West at Arkansas alone would qualify a coach for the Hall of Fame, but not yet.
The 1995 season is also the first time I ever got excited about Arkansas football. Specifically, the 1995 game against Alabama, when J.J. Meadors scored a touchdown in the final seconds to win the game in Tuscaloosa, was the first time I ever gathered around a radio to hear Paul Eells call a great Razorback moment. Some members of my family and I left a wedding reception, gathered in a van, and lived it. It was great and something I’ll never forget.
He also had a memorable way with words. His “it doesn’t take a scientific rocket” is still quoted by the longtime beat reporters. I’ll also remember his coaches show getting made fun of in Sports Illustrated in 1997. More fun times.
While discussing a 17-13 win over Louisiana Tech, Ford said, "Right now we done been on the field too long." And "here they make a third-down play. This was a big play right here. I don't know what happened."
1995 was one of just two winning seasons for Ford in Fayetteville, although he did recruit most of the players that led Arkansas to a big season in Houston Nutt’s first year in 1998 and again in 1999.
Ford joins former Arkansas coaches Frank Broyles, Lou Holtz, Hugo Bezdek, and Bowden Wyatt in the Hall.
This was his write up in the election press release:
The youngest coach in college football history to win a national championship, Danny Ford was only 33 when he led Clemson to a perfect 12-0 season in 1981 after defeating Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. After coaching one of the most successful runs in Clemson history from 1978-89, he also coached at Arkansas from 1993-97.
He guided the Tigers to six wins in eight bowl games, the second-most bowl victories among ACC coaches, with five coming against Hall of Fame coaches. The 1981 AFCA and Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year coached Clemson to a school-record 41 consecutive weeks in the AP Top 20 and eight top 20 seasons, including four in the top 10. A two-time ACC Coach of the Year, Ford led the Tigers to five conference titles and his 51 wins over his first six years is an ACC record.
Ford's 76.0 winning percentage with the Tigers ranks first in school history among coaches who served at least three seasons, and he is second in wins at Clemson (96) behind only College Football Hall of Fame coach Frank Howard. Ford never had a losing season at Clemson, guided them to the second most postseason appearances in school history and led the university to its first national championship in any sport.
At Arkansas, Ford led the Razorbacks to the 1995 SEC Western Division title, a spot in the conference championship game and a bowl berth.
During his career at both universities, Ford coached 15 First Team All-Americans, including Hall of Famers Jeff Davis and Terry Kinard at Clemson. He also coached 73 first team all-conference selections, 21 Academic All-ACC players, three ACC Players of the Year, two ACC Rookies of the Year and two recipients of the ACC Jacobs Blocking Trophy. He also coached 1978 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Steve Fuller.
Ford was a team captain and earned First Team All-SEC honors playing for College Football Hall of Fame coach Bear Bryant at Alabama. Before becoming Clemson's head coach, he served an assistant coach at Clemson, Virginia Tech and on Bryant's 1973 national championship team. A member of the Clemson Ring of Honor, Ford is enshrined in the Clemson, Orange Bowl, Peach Bowl, State of Alabama Sports and State of South Carolina Sports halls of fame. A scholarship at Clemson has been named in his honor.
Congratulations to Coach Ford. It’s a great honor.