The 1978 Gator Bowl against Ohio State and legendary head coach Woody Hayes certainly was a memorable one. Clemson won the game, 17-15, but the result will forever be overshadowed by what happened in the final two minutes of the game.
Ford was promoted from offensive line to head coach just weeks before the game after Charley Pell accepted the Florida job. Before Pell's departure, he'd already put together the practice schedule and travel itinerary for the game.
"The only thing I really had to do was put them on the field on time and receive or kickoff," Ford said. "But, then, things got -- seemed like nothing ever happened easy when I was coaching."
With just over two minutes to play, Ohio State had the ball deep in Clemson territory as the Tigers clung to their 17-15 lead. Ford was convinced the Buckeyes were going to score until Art Schlichter threw that fateful interception to Charlie Bauman.
Moments after Schlichter wrestled Bauman out of bounds around the Clemson 35, Hayes connected with a right hook just under Bauman's helmet. A brawl ensued.
"All I saw was a fight started. I ran out there, do like we were supposed to do, like we were taught to do, and break it up. I ran out there, tried to break it up," Ford said. "One of their boys thought I was a manager or something. He grabbed me and threw me down. I got up, got my hat and ran back to the sideline [and] let somebody else break it up."
Once things calmed down, Ford spoke with one of the officials, Butch Lambert, who was working on the Clemson sideline for the game. It was during that conversation that Ford learned one of the Ohio State coaches punched a Clemson player.
"I said, ‘Dang, they can't do that. What you going to do,'" Ford asked.
The response: A 15-yard personal foul penalty.
"I don't think that's correct. I think you ought to do more than that," Ford said. "[Lambert] said, ‘We've done all we're going to do.'
"I said, ‘Well, Butch, I think we're going to make history, take our team off the field and just quit. You can cut the TVs off.'
"He looked at me and said, ‘Son, you want some good advice?' I said, ‘Yes, sir.' He said, ‘If you don't do something stupid, y'all are going to win this ball game.' I said, ‘Yes, sir.'"
After a couple of plays and another 15-yard penalty on Hayes, the game was over. Clemson won its first game under the guidance of its 30-year-old offensive line coach.
It wasn't until 3 or 4 a.m. the next morning when Ford learned the details of what happened on the other sideline.
"No. 1, I was amazed that Charlie Bauman never said a word about it. We didn't say anything to him, because we didn't know it," Ford said. "But I was amazed at his composure and how he did…I think that was the most impressive thing about that.
"Charlie went through a lot of stuff. I remember flying up to where he was living in New Jersey at the time during the holidays after that and visiting with his family. It was such a big deal.
"Later, I think he changed his name. He married a lady and took her last name for a while, because he didn't want to be known, I guess, as the one involved in that game like that. I never heard him talk much about it…he doesn't really want anything to do with it."
To this day, that's still the case. Since Sunday's announcement of Clemson and Ohio State playing in the Orange Bowl, Bauman has turned down multiple interview requests.
There are varying accounts of what happened after the game. Ford told reporters that Hayes reached out to Bauman to extend an apology.
"He called after that and got Charlie Bauman's telephone number, it was on a Sunday -- [Hayes] called and asked me if he could speak with him, I said certainly, but he was in a study hall," Ford said.
The following summer, Hayes was invited to be the guest speaker at the South Carolina high school coaching clinic in Columbia.
"He had standing room only, the biggest crowd they'd ever had at the coaches," Ford said. "That was just about the first time coaches came out with beards and mustaches, and he chewed every one of them out that had a beard or mustache. He never coached after that.
"He was a good man, sorry it happened against us and all that."
The punch heard 'round the world
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