Clemson patriarch Frank Howard, who turned a no-name school in a no-name town into a football power, was a kinda ornery, sorta lovable, chaw-chewin' gentleman with a firm hand and a wildcat's tongue. His death from heart failure last Friday in Clemson, at the age of 86, chipped away further at that once larger-than-life institution, the almighty southern football coach.
Between 1940 and '69 Howard coached the Tigers to a 165-118-12 record and eight conference championships and, just as important, lent to the Clemson team his own appealing arrogance. In a Houston hotel the day before the '59 Blue-bonnet Bowl, Howard, who was born on an Alabama cotton farm, was asked to come to another room to meet Nelson Rockefeller, then the governor of New York. "How many games has that of boy won, buddy?" Howard responded. "Tell Rocky to come down here."
Rocky came, just like the thousands who came to watch Clemson during its first heyday, in the 1950s. And in his retirement Howard's shadow only lengthened over the field that has borne his name since '74. No one was surprised when he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in '89. And no one was surprised to see him at every Tigers home game last autumn, just a few months before his heart would finally give out, still a determined figure, making his way through the press box with a walker.
Pioneers, Woe Pioneers!
Like most new coaches, Ray Pace felt pressure to win when he took the job at Rutgers-Camden last week. But when his team was thumped 84-53 by William Paterson College last Saturday, Pace could take solace in the fact that he was continuing what has become a lime-honored basketball tradition in Camden (SI, Jan. 9, 1995). The loss was the 100th in a row for the Division III Pioneers, who have blazed a trail of ineptitude since their last victory four years ago.
Pace and his players acknowledged after Saturday's game that myriad reasons for the dismal streak boil down to this: It's difficult for what is largely a commuter school with reasonably high academic standards and a part-time coaching staff to attract players who can achieve any semblance of chemistry and compete even at the Division III level. "Basically we're just a bunch of kids playing," says junior forward-center Vincent Kennedy. "We're not together. A lot of the time we don't even know what we are going to do out there."
Despite their lack of harmony on the court, the Pioneers are optimistic that the Streak will end—at least before it reaches 200. "Give us one quality player, a big man, to throw in there," says Pace, "and I guarantee we'll get not one win but more than one win."
Well, one would be a start. And just imagine how good Pace and his Pioneers will feel when—all right, if—it ever comes. "Don't blame these players," says Pace, who jumped from assistant to head coach when Wilbur (Pony) Wilson resigned on Jan. 24 out of frustration and concern for his health. "What do you think it takes to stay in a program like this? It takes heart and guts. It takes more to stay here than at a place where you're winning all the time."
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