Born: January 4, 1937 - Union, S.C.
Sims H.S., 1956
South Carolina State University, 1960
College Football Hall of Fame, 2010
Although most of his life has been spent in his home state of South Carolina, Willie Jeffries still has and always will have a special place in his heart for the people of Kansas, and especially, Wichita.
“The people there were the nicest I’ve met anywhere,” said Jeffries, who was the first African-American head football coach at the NCAA Division I level - Wichita State, 1979 - and the only coach ever to go up against both Eddie Robinson of Grambling and Bear Bryant of Alabama.
Already a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Jeffries will now be inducted with other greats into the Sunflower State's most prestigious hall of fame.
“But, if not for (WSU president) Clark Ahlberg and (athletic director) Ted Bredehoft allowing me to coach at Wichita State, this would have never happened," Jeffries said. "I owe them a lot. I have a lot of fond memories there”
It was Ahlberg and Bredehoft, who helped make Jeffries, now 74, one of college football's true pioneers.
“I consider it a great honor for myself, for my former players and for all the individuals I worked for at Wichita State,” Jeffries said. “I’m very grateful for the committee for selecting me to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.”
Named the head coach at Wichita State in 1979, Jeffries held that position for five seasons. The greatest memory for Jeffries during his time at WSU was a no-brainer – a 13-10 victory over the University of Kansas in Lawrence during the 1982 season opener. It was the first time the two teams had played in 36 years.
“It was an amazing day,” Jeffries said. “”I still have fond memories of that day."
Jeffries' 1982 team posted a record of 8-3.one of the best in school history. He coached at Wichita State, Howard and South Carolina State and posted a record of 179-132-6 in 29 years, including 19 of them at his alma mater, South Carolina State. Jeffries won almost 60 percent of the college games he coached, making him the winningest coach in the 107-year history of South Carolina State and owner of more Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference victories than any other coach in history.
One of Jeffries' closest coaching friends is Herman Boone, dating back to when the two were assistant coaches in North Carolina. In a letter of recommendation in support of Jeffries' induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, Boone wrote, "Without his leadership and example, there would not have been 'Remember the Titans' or the advancement in race relations in sports that we have witnessed."
Jeffries' record during his two stints with the SCSU program (1973-78 and 1989-2001) included three Black National Championship, seven MEAC titles, several post-season appearances in Division 1-AA playoffs and Heritage Bowl, and numerous coaching awards.
The South Carolina State Board of Trustees voted to name the football field in Oliver C. Dawson Stadium after Jeffries. Willie E. Jeffries Field was unveiled during halftime of the November 5, 2010, game between Howard and South Carolina State. In addition to being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame last year, Jeffries has also been honored by the Wichita Sports Hall of Fame and South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame.