Ford Remembers Banks McFadden


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Special to TigerNet from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger

CLEMSON -- Former Clemson head football coach Danny Ford remembers the occasions when Banks McFadden would visit his practices, especially during the days when future NFL punter Dale Hatcher and placekicker/punter Chris Gardocki were showing their stuff.

"He and Fred Cone would come out to see if they could help," recalled Ford.

McFadden was laid to rest June 11th at Cemetery Hill, the final resting place of many past Clemson greats, following a long bout with cancer. He was 88.

A dual All-American in football and basketball in 1939, McFadden is known as arguably Clemson's best all-time athlete. Not only did he excel at both sports, he was also a member of the school's only men's basketball conference tournament championship squad.


Yet, Ford said McFadden was also known for more than just his exploits on the field. Off the field, Ford described the charter member of both the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame and South Carolina athletic Hall of Fame as "a Clemson gentleman." "He was a super guy," he said. "Coach (Frank) Howard thought a lot of him and he stayed at Clemson for a long time. When you lose Frank Jervey, Coach Howard and Banks McFadden, you've lost a lot because that's what Clemson was all about." Ford, who said that McFadden "loved Clemson to death," pointed out that the only Clemson athlete to have both his football jersey and basketball jersey retired continued to show interest in the football program long after his playing days.

"He was real nice to us," he said. "He was always at the ballgames." Ford admitted that he is amazed at the accomplishments recorded by McFadden during his Clemson athletic career.

"Today's sport has specialized so much and they played year round back then," he said. "You had to play both ways when he was playing (football) and he also punted, played basketball, baseball and was in ROTC since they were a military school back then.

"The poor man never had a break. I don't know how he did what he did." Even though college athletics has changed over the years, with additional games, a heavier emphasis on spring practice and an increased national spotlight, Ford said that doesn't diminish what McFadden was able to accomplish.

"These kids didn't have to march either," he said.

There is an old saying that "Behind Every Great Man is a Great Woman" and that was certainly the case with McFadden. He was married to the former Annie Rigsby for 55 years until her death in 2001.

"They were an outstanding couple, she was just as fine as he was," he said.

McFadden not only participated in athletics at Clemson as a player, leading the football team to its first bowl bid in 1939, he also coached both in football and basketball. He coached defensive backs at Clemson in 1941 and from 1955 to 1969.

After four years in the Army Air Corps during World War II, from 1946 to 1949, he became the freshman football coach at Clemson for five years. He also coached the men's basketball team from 1946 to 1956.

Ford said that family and athletics were not the only loves in McFadden's long and fruitful life, there was also his love of dancing.

"He had two hip replacements and wore both out dancing," he said.

Tags: Danny Ford
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