1978 Gator Bowl remembered more for what happened at the end than the Tigers' win
Danny Ford had perhaps the most memorable first game of any head coach in the history of college football, though he really had nothing to do with it besides coach Clemson to a victory.
Ford’s first game was in the 1978 Gator Bowl, when his Clemson team faced Hall of Fame head coach Woody Hayes and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Ford took over as head coach at Clemson after Charlie Pell left to go coach the Florida Gators. Ford was Pell’s offensive line coach at Clemson in 1977 and 1978.
The Tigers had won their first ACC Championship in 11 years, were 10-1 and ranked No. 7 in the country heading into the 1978 Gator Bowl.
Clemson went on to beat the Buckeyes, 17-15, that evening in Jacksonville, Fla. However, hardly anyone remembers the score. The game is infamously remembered for what happened near the end of the game.
With Ohio State desperately trying to get into field goal range in the final minutes, Clemson middle guard Charlie Bauman intercepted an Art Schlichter pass and returned it up the Buckeyes’ sideline before being tackled.
When he got up, Hayes, who was known to lose his temper from time to time, punched Bauman, which cleared both sidelines.
“It was a pile of humanity right there on their sideline,” Clemson’s All-American quarterback Steve Fuller said to The Clemson Insider. “The referees were trying to figure out where the ball is and who has what. No one, with maybe the exception of Jim Stuckey, Charlie Bauman and a couple of guys that were right there, had any idea of what happened.
“We saw it on the news that night. I don’t think Coach Ford knew. I think the media started asking him in the locker room. He did not know it. It was a very unusual situation.”
The next morning, Hayes was fired.
The 1978 Gator Bowl win was a landmark victory for the Clemson program, which catapulted it into the national scene. Three years later, the Tigers one their first national championship by beating another powerhouse in Nebraska in the 1982 Orange Bowl.
Relive all the action from the 1978 Gator Bowl below.
–file photo courtesy of Clemson Athletic Communications
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