January 4, 1937 |
Union, South Carolina
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|South Carolina State
South Carolina State
|Head coaching record|
College Football Data Warehouse
|College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2010 (profile)
Willie Jeffries, (born January 4, 1937) is a former college football coach. In his 29-year career, Jeffries compiled a 179-132-6 record. He coached 19 years at his alma mater South Carolina State University (SCSU) in two stints, five years at Wichita State University, and five years at Howard University. Jeffries won almost 60 percent of the college games he coached, which made him the winningest coach in the 107-year history of SCSU and owner of more MEAC victories than any other coach.
Jeffries was the first African American head coach of a NCAA Division I-A football program at a predominantly white college when he coached Wichita State University starting in 1979. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
Willie Jeffries grew up in South Carolina where he attended segregated schools which were always named after a black leader or the street where the school was built. He started his coaching career in 1960 as an assistant at Barr Street High School in Lancaster, SC. He was given his first head coaching job in Gaffney, SC where he went 64-8-2 in seven seasons.
South Carolina State
His record during his two stints with the South Carolina State Bulldog football team: 1973 to 1978 and 1989 to 2001, includes three Black National Championships, seven Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) championships, several post-season appearances in Division 1-AA playoffs and Heritage Bowl, and numerous coaching awards. Players that Jeffries coached at SCSU include Pro Football Hall of Famers Harry Carson and Donnie Shell as well as Robert Porcher, Orlando Brown, Chartric Darby, Dextor Clinkscale, David Norman, and Anthony Cook.
In 2010, Coach Jeffries was named Head Football Coach Emeritus by the South Carolina State University Board of Trustees. With the new role, Coach Jeffries will also serve as a liaison between the university, its alumni and other constituents and also help market the university. University President Dr. George Cooper said of the elevation to Coach Emeritus, ""Coach Jeffries and his wide appeal to so many of our stakeholders and other constituents provide us a great opportunity to brand and market the University. He can help us frame relationships that will increase support for athletics."
SCSU Athletic Director Charlene Johnson added, "Coach Jeffries is truly admired by so many. Not just for his achievements in athletics, but also for his humanitarian contributions to this community, this state and society. He has used football and his great personal skills to bring about better community relations in Orangeburg, the Palmetto State and beyond and I think it's very fitting that the university has bestowed this honor upon him."
When Jeffries took over Wichita State in 1979, he became the first African American to coach a Division I-A University. He is the only man to coach against both Eddie Robinson of Grambling State University and Paul "Bear" Bryant of the University of Alabama.
Jeffries was the 32nd head college football coach for the Wichita State University Shockers located in Wichita, Kansas and he held that position for five seasons, from 1979 until 1983. His 1982 team's record of 8-3 would prove to be the last winning season in Wichita State history as the program was discontinued after the 1986 season. His overall coaching record at Wichita State was 21 wins, 32 losses, and 2 ties. This ranks him third at Wichita State in terms of total wins and 21st at Wichita State in terms of winning percentage.
Jeffries coached at Howard University from 1984 to 1988. He led the Howard Bison football team to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) in 1987, however, this title was forfeited along with all victories for the season when it was learned that Jeffries had used up to 30 ineligible players on his team. His coaching record at Howard was 21 wins, 32 losses. The only Bison player who played under Jeffries who went on to the NFL was tight end Jimmie Johnson, who played 10 seasons in the NFL and is currently a tight ends coach with the Minnesota Vikings.
Awards and honors
On May 5, 1988, the Governor of South Carolina Carroll Campbell presented Coach Jeffries with the Order of the Palmetto. This is the highest civilian honor in the state of South Carolina and is awarded to those citizens who make achievements of statewide impact.
Coach Jeffries was awarded the companion honor of the Order of the Silver Crescent by Governor Jim Hodges on October 13, 2001. This is awarded to those who make community or professional accomplishments of local significance.
On June 20, 2009, Coach Jeffries was inducted into the Wichita Sports Hall of Fame for his color barrier breaking run as head coach of Wichita State.
The South Carolina State Board of Trustees voted to name the football field in Oliver C. Dawson Stadium after Jeffries. Willie E. Jeffries Field was unveiled during halftime of the November 5, 2010 Howard at South Carolina State football game. The halftime festivities included an NFF Hall of Fame On-Campus Salute sponsored by The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame. NFF representative Hillary Jeffries (no relation) presented Coach Jeffries with a plaque as part of Willie Jeffries day in Orangeburg, SC.
Coach Jeffries is a good friend of Coach Herman Boone, dating back to when the two were assistant coaches in North Carolina. Coach Boone wrote a letter of recommendation in support of Jeffries' induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. In it, Boone wrote, "Without his leadership and example, there would not have been Remember the Titans or the advancement in race relations in sports that we have witnessed."
- ESPN.com "College Football" May 11, 2010
- "SC African-American History Online".
- "Jeffries Named S.C. State Head Coach Emeritus".
- "Willie Jeffries".. SportsCentury February 22, 2002. ESPN
- "Wichita St. Coaching Records".
- http://www.vikings.com/team/coaches/jimmie-johnson/5e370d6b-1308-4775-ac74-ca7dbf6205ee Minnesota Vikings Tight Ends Coach Jimmie Johnson
- "Order of the Palmetto Recipients Alphabetical List".
- "Order of the Silver Crescent Recipients Alphabetical List".
- Wolters, Levi (May 6, 2009). "Wichita Sports Hall of Fame names 2009 class".
- "Jeffries earns ‘top’ honor".
- "Bulldog Stadium playing surface to be named after Willie Jeffries".
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