The following day the United Press International Board of Coaches and the Associated Press national poll of sportswriters and sportscasters voted Clemson the number one team in the nation, thus making official the first national title in any sport for Clemson University and the state of South Carolina.
On January 1, 1982, the Clemson University Tigers defeated the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers 22 to 15 at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. The following day the United Press International Board of Coaches and the Associated Press national poll of sportswriters and sportscasters voted Clemson the number one team in the nation, thus making official the first national title in any sport for Clemson University and the state of South Carolina.
The Tigers entered the Orange Bowl with eleven consecutive wins. Their opponents that season included Wofford, Tulane, Georgia, Kentucky, Virginia, Duke, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Maryland, and South Carolina. They were coached by Danny Ford, a native of Gadsden, Alabama, and captain of the University of Alabama “Crimson Tide” in 1969. After serving as an assistant coach at Alabama, Virginia Tech, and Clemson, Ford became the Tigers’ head coach in late 1978. Just thirty-three years old in 1981, he was the youngest coach in the history of college football to win a national championship and was voted the Atlantic Coast Conference coach of the year in 1981 by the ACC Sports Writers Association.
The win in Miami earned each team approximately $875,000, at that time the largest payout in Orange Bowl history. The victory, however, was clouded by rumors of irregularities in methods of recruiting players. In March 1982 the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) began an investigation of the Clemson football program; in November of that year, after finding seventy violations of recruiting and other practices, the NCAA placed the Clemson football program on probation for two years. Shortly thereafter, the Atlantic Coast Conference put Clemson on probation for three years. In spite of these restrictions, the national championship brought recognition to the team. Of the 1981 roster, eleven players became All-Americans in their careers, thirty-one were drafted into the National Football League, and six became Super Bowl champions.
Blackman, Sam, Bob Bradley, and Chuck Kriese. Clemson: Where the Tigers Play. Champaign, Ill.: Sports Publishing, 1999.
Ellis, Steve, and Kerry Capps. Roar from the Top, a Cinderella Story: The 1981 National Champion Clemson Tigers. Clemson, S.C., 1982.
McKale, Donald F., ed. Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1988.