Danny Ford on what life in SEC would be like for Clemson football


Reports that have Clemson packing its bags and leaving the ACC for the SEC haven’t been lost on former Clemson football coach Danny Ford.

So leave it to Ford to succinctly summarize what life in the SEC might be like for the Tigers.

“They wouldn’t automatically be picked to finish first every year,” Ford told the Greenville News.

Ford should know. He served as coach in both leagues – from 1978-89 at Clemson and from 1993-97 at Arkansas – enabling him to gain valuable insight into the teams, traditions and atmospheres in both leagues. He also played for legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant at Alabama.

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Although Ford’s primary focus has been farming and fishing at his home near Pendleton for the past 25 years, he remains intimately familiar with the level of competition in the SEC and continues to have a keen interest in what unfolds each fall under coach Dabo Swinney’s watch at Clemson.

The Tigers have been a dominant force in the ACC for the past decade. Clemson has been picked to win the league title each of the last four years and seven times in the last nine years. Clemson won six consecutive ACC Championship Games until Pitt interrupted the Tigers’ streak last season.

The sledding is likely to be considerably tougher if the Tigers join the SEC. SEC teams have won 12 of the last 15 national championships, with five different teams – Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia and LSU – wearing the crown during that time.

“Clemson does have a lot of depth, but in the SEC everybody else does, too,” said Ford, who guided Clemson to its first national championship in 1981.  “It ain’t gonna be so easy because they beat you up every week. Your (team’s) health is the problem. You can’t go and practice because your people are hurt and beat up, especially if you don’t have enough depth.

“That was the problem when South Carolina and Arkansas came into the conference – neither team was prepared to come into the SEC. Neither team had the money, the facilities, the players or anything to join that conference. Well, now it’s different for Clemson. Clemson has a lot of that already built in.”

Instead of boasting the largest stadium in the ACC with a capacity of 81,500, Clemson’s Memorial Stadium would rank as the eighth-largest in the SEC. But Clemson’s other football-related facilities would be on par or exceed any in the SEC.

“There are a lot more advantages to Clemson now than there were before, in coach (Frank) Howard’s days especially and coach (Red) Parker’s days,” Ford said. “Maybe we had some advantages, but we didn’t have some of the advantages they have today. They’re in a sweet situation being Clemson in the ACC in football.

“The thing about the SEC, nobody there is going to get any weaker because you’re joining. They’re just going to continue to get stronger.”

Roy Philpott, a commentator for ESPN, believes that a Clemson move to the SEC would generate plenty of excitement.

“There are a lot of like-minded institutions in the SEC that are comparable to Clemson,” Philpott said. “You think about the attractiveness of a Clemson vs. Florida on a regular basis, Clemson vs. Georgia on a regular basis, that would get people excited. Those are easy trips to make for Clemson fans as well.

“Life in the SEC would be something that many Clemson fans would be quite comfortable with and would be ready to deal with. They’ve heard it from the opposite end of the spectrum forever – how great football is in that league. It would be interesting to see what it would actually look like if it did happen.”