The straight shooting, field plowing, good old boy from Alabama led Clemson to its only National Championship in 1981, and he's always good for a quote.
Ford spoke with reporters earlier this week on a number of topics, including the 1979 Gator Bowl against Ohio State.
The following question and answers are from that sit-down, which lasted nearly 45 minutes.
If you were still coaching today, would there be some temptation to run fast-paced offense? Or would you still be running the option?
Ford: I don't know. I think, from what I saw of Auburn, there's still a place for the option. It's a different kind of option. From what I saw of Georgia Tech and Georgia, they can still move the ball. It's for what you recruit for and what you've got, what kind of players you have. We'll see when [Tajh] Boyd leaves here, it seems like he's been here forever -- he's finally leaving. The next quarterback, how will they tweak or change their offense to suit the next quarterback. Will it be more read-option? Or a little bit more throwing? A little bit more sprinting out? I think it's just going to be what you recruited for. A good case in point is Auburn. They changed their offense from what they recruited for, for several years. They tried to go to a power game and it didn't work. They were 0-8 in the conference last year, I believe. They've come around and are playing for a national championship this year, because they've gone back to what they recruited to. I think it's what you've got already there and what you recruit to.
Did you feel like you were ready to be a head coach by the time they named you?
Ford: Well, yeah, I thought. Certainly you thought you're always ready. But, no, I had no clue. When I go out and speak, I tell this a lot of times, this story about the Ohio State game and tell about what happened before the game,the week leading up to it. I'd never even had a king sized bed. I had a suite about the size of this [P.A.W. dining room]. It had everything in it you could have, 10 floors up. I'm enjoying it, thinking this coaching is pretty good stuff. The closer it got to the game, I kept wanting to lift that window and jump out that thing and not have to go on TV and put a football team on national TV. But the window was screwed down. I couldn't open it. You have no idea. I don't think you ever have an idea. You're supposed to be prepared. You're supposed to learn. Bill McClellan, Dr. Edwards and that crowd, the Board of Trustees and whoever, I was way too young. I don't know how in the world they did it. I wouldn't have done it.
You're describing a guy who was almost overwhelmed by the experience. That doesn't sound like Danny Ford.
Ford: It didn't scare me. It was like when they asked if I was scared of the job. I said, ‘The only thing I'm scared of is a snake.' That's the truth. I'm afraid of a snake now. I ain't messing with no snake for nothing. But anything else, I think I can handle. You still, if you've never done it, I think I could drive a car, but I've never been in one. Until I get in there and really do it, you've got no idea whether you can do it or not. I guess it would be like I'm driving a motorcycle when it goes dead on you four or five times -- we had good enough players, had some really great players that year, good enough players to overcome anything I could screw up, I guess, would be the best way I could describe it.
What's your reaction to what's happened against South Carolina the last five years?
Ford: Oh, lordy, mercy. Certainly, we don't like it. I don't think anybody likes it. But there's nothing you can do about it. In our day, there was a bank in Anderson that put the winner's logo on top of their bank for the whole year. If you ever went to Anderson, if Clemson won, you'd see the Tiger thing up there. If the chickens won, you'd have a Gamecock floating around. You'd have to live with it for 365 days. You have to do that now-a-days, too. Of course, the bowl game can get your mind off of it a little bit. When you go and raise money, go to IPTAY meetings, that's still an important topic that people want to know. They can turn it around, but they can't do anything about it today. They only have one day a year to do something about it. It's tough that we lost to them several times, and probably one of the worst times that we got beat was down there. They just whipped us. To this day, our people remember it when we were coaching. It's nothing to be happy about at all when you get beat by them.
Even when Clemson has won 10 games these last three seasons, does that take away from it a little bit, because South Carolina has had that success?
Ford: It doesn't take away the 10 wins at all. That's a great accomplishment. But it doesn't make you happy. I'm not speaking for their coaches, if we had won 10 games and lost to them, we wouldn't have a happy offseason.
Have you in the last year and a half, two years, maybe, reminisced a little bit more about that era for you, just because of what's happened to the modern day team?
Ford: No. You know, they've had a lot of circumstances that are similar. It's nice, I got a chance to go back to that thing that happened a couple of years ago [at the Orange Bowl]. That thing there at halftime. I was down there for that game. It turned on that 14-point swing right there before halftime, because there wasn't that much difference between those teams. Really and truly, there wasn't. This year, it's going to be different. Of little I watched of this season, what Ohio State does well, Clemson has a tough time with, and what Clemson does well Ohio State has a tough time with, so both teams get 30 days to improve on what they do poorly. We'll see what's going to happen. It's like that Auburn and darn Missouri game. I watched and at halftime I thought the game was over with. That was the longest scoring and most moving back and forth game I've ever seen in my life. It's starting to get like high school in college. Somebody better start stopping somebody. In high school, it's like 63-62, 54-43 and everything else. So, if Clemson doesn't improve on what Ohio State does well and Ohio State doesn't improve on what Clemson does well, it's going to be a lot of scoring in that ball game.
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