COLUMBIA, S.C. — Clemson's Danny Ford, the third winningest active football coach in the nation, resigned today in the wake of the second NCAA investigation during his 11 years at the Atlantic Coast Conference school.
The 41-year-old Ford coached the Tigers to the national championship in 1981 and compiled a 96-29-4 record, including a 5-3 mark in bowl games. But ever since Clemson received a letter of inquiry from the NCAA two weeks ago concerning 14 alleged rules violations, Ford's job was rumored to be in jeopardy.
"I hereby resign as head football coach of Clemson University," Ford said. "I shall cooperate and participate with Clemson in the response to the NCAA investigation. I deny any wrongdoing on my part, and I am confident that an impartial review of the facts will so prove."
Clemson did not name a replacement for Ford and a source within the athletic department said it could be a week before one is named. A Clemson spokesman said no assistant coaches had resigned or were fired.
Ford's resignation follows more than a decade filled with problems in the football program.
In 1982, the program was placed on two years' probation after the NCAA found 70 rules violations that occurred between 1976 and 1982. Charley Pell was the Clemson coach until the end of the 1978 season, when Ford took over and coached the Tigers in the 1978 Gator Bowl. That game is best remembered for the incident involving the late Ohio State Coach Woody Hayes, who was fired after he punched Tigers linebacker Charlie Bauman late in a 17-15 victory over the Buckeyes.
During the last week, reports circulated that Ford and his lawyers were huddling with Clemson officials in hopes of working out a deal to allow him to resign.
Under terms of the resignation agreement, Ford will be paid $190,000 a year for the next three years. Depending on whether Ford accepts another head coaching job, he could be paid $190,000 for up to five years. Ford had a five-year contract that automatically extends one year after each season.
The NCAA outlined its latest allegations against Clemson on Jan. 5. The alleged violations include paying players up to $150 and the illegal recruiting of players from 1984 to 1988.
In accepting Ford's resignation, Athletic Director Bobby Robinson praised the coach for his accomplishments but also said there had been differences between the two men.
"We have honest differences of opinion on certain basic aspects of the football program," Robinson said in a statement. "A separation under any terms would be difficult. An amicable parting is certainly less painful for all involved. That is why we felt it was in the university's best interests to agree to a fair settlement under the terms of Ford's contract and bringing the matter to a close."
Ford's resignation also may have been an attempt by the university to ease any penalties the NCAA may place on the school. Several schools in recent months have had their punishment lightened because the head coach was no longer employed there when the NCAA Committee on Infractions decided on sanctions.
Clemson has until March 12 to respond in writing to the NCAA concerning the allegations. The infractions committee is expected to meet April 20-22 in Kansas City and to announce its decision two to four weeks later.