Fourth Hall of Fame Honors S.C. State Coach

By Bob Gillespie
Updated: September 27, 2008

SOUTH CAROLINA — Four halls of fame down. One to go.

Former South Carolina State football coach Willie Jeffries, who no doubt is running out of acceptance speeches, dusted off his induction monologue Friday night, when he entered the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame during a ceremony at Atlanta’s Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Jeffries, who has the best coaching record in S.C. State’s 105-year history, is a member of the S.C. State, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and South Carolina Athletic halls of fame. Earlier this year, he was nominated for the College Football Coaches Hall of Fame.

“The (Black College Alumni) Hall of Fame induction ceremony not only reflects (on) me, it represents our university,” Jeffries said in a statement. “Without S.C. State, I don’t know where I would be.”

Jeffries holds a unique place in college football history as the first black head football coach in NCAA Division I, breaking the color barrier in 1979 when he left the first of two stints at S.C. State to take over at Wichita State.

He coached the Shockers to a school-best 8-3 season and an upset of instate rival Kansas in 1982. He left after a 3-8 record and an NCAA investigation in 1983 to return to the MEAC, staying five seasons at Howard (1984-88) before returning to Orangeburg in 1989.

His record in 29 seasons at the three schools was 179-132-6. His best run came during his first six-season stay at S.C. State, when he was 50-13-4 and won five of his six MEAC titles. In his rebuilding jobs at Wichita State and Howard, his records were 21-32.

Jeffries returned to his alma mater in 1989 and coached through 2001, posting a 73-58 record, including a 10-2 mark in 1994.

Before taking over at S.C. State in 1973, Jeffries was an assistant coach at North Carolina A&T and Pittsburgh and a high school coach at Gaffney’s now-defunct Granard High.

The 1960 S.C. State graduate holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s in guidance and counseling. Besides his hall-of-fame memberships, Jeffries is a recipient of the Order of the Silver Crescent and the Order of the Palmetto, given to South Carolinians for outstanding community service.

In recent years, he has been chairman of the annual Palmetto Capital City Classic football game in Columbia.