Former WSU Coach Willie Jeffries Bio
Willie Jeffries (South Carolina State ’60)
Willie Jeffries completed an illustrious career as head football coach at South Carolina State in 2001, when he retired as Bulldog mentor after 19 seasons. His final Bulldog team rebounded from a 1-5 start to finish 6-5 and send the Bulldog alumnus out a winner. Jeffries remained at the University in the position of Director of Athletic Fund Raising until 2005 year when he took over as Athletics Director at Grambling, where he spent one year before returning to the Orangeburg area.
In 2010 Jeffries was named SC State Head Football Coach Emeritus and inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. The SC State alumnus also had the field at Oliver C. Dawson named for him and earned “Person of the Year” accolades from the Times and Democrat newspaper in Orangeburg.
He continues to be involved in athletics at SC State, the Orangeburg community, the state and nation. Coach Jeffries is the past president of the SC Athletic Hall of Fame and has been the longtime “Em Cee” of the Orangeburg Touchdown Cub.
A Union County, SC native, Jeffries began his first tenure at his alma mater in 1973 and went on to compile an impressive 50-13-4 record in six seasons. He left after the 1978 campaign but returned in 1989. During his second tenure, which spanned thirteen years, he amassed a 78-64-0 worksheet for a combined 128-77-4 mark at SCSU, where he played both football and baseball, and earned a civil engineering degree in 1960.
During his remarkable 29-year collegiate head-coaching career, which included five-year stints each at Wichita State and Howard, Jeffries compiled a 179-132-6 record. This enviable worksheet included six Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championships, two national titles, several post season appearances, and numerous coaching awards. Jeffries also produced a number of players who has distinguished themselves in professional football and other professions as well.
The winningest coach in the 106-year history of S.C. State, and one-time owner of more MEAC victories than any other coach, Jeffries won almost 60 percent of the college games he coached. The SCSU program did not enjoy its accustomed success over the last few seasons of his tenure, however, Jeffries continued to develop young men who earned their degrees as the university has been the leader in the MEAC and historical black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in graduating football players.
His early success as Bulldog head coach earned him national notoriety, and subsequently, a number of coaching offers. He passed up several opportunities to serve as an assistant in the National Football League, however, following the 1978 season at S.C. State, Jeffries accepted the head coaching position at Wichita (KS) State, becoming the first African-American coach to head a Division I-A program.
His team won only one of eleven games at Wichita State in 1979, his rookie season at the Kansas school, but the next year, the Shockers climbed to 5-5-1. Two years later, in 1982, Wichita State compiled a sparkling 8-3 record.
In 1984, five years after making his historic trek to Wichita State, Jeffries returned to the MEAC as head coach at Howard. Regarded as one of the nation’s top coaches, Jeffries needed just four years to guide the Bison – perennial doormats in the MEAC – to a 9-1 mark, their first league crown, and a national title.
Two years later, he made S.C. State alumni and supporters, the Orangeburg community, and the Palmetto State happy when he returned to the University for a Second Tenure as head coach.
After returning to his alma mater, Coach Jeffries went on to produce seven winning teams, including a string of five straight from 1991-95. In 1994, he tied the school record for the number of wins during a 10-2 season, and captured the MEAC championship, the Bulldogs’ first conference title in 11 seasons. Jeffries also earned a national title and made three Heritage Bowl appearances after coming back to Orangeburg in 1989.
Jeffries started his collegiate career in 1968 at North Carolina A&T as an assistant under Hornsby Howell. He later coached at the University of Pittsburgh under Johnny Majors, before coming to Orangeburg in 1973. His college coaching career came on the heels of an enormously successful tenure in the high school ranks.
Jeffries’ very first coaching position was as an assistant at Lancaster’s Barr Street High School in 1960. A head coaching position followed in 1961 at Granard High in Gaffney, where he compiled a six-year 65-7-2 mark, and won three (1964-66) consecutive state AAA championships.
The Bulldog mentor is enshrined in eighteen halls of fame, with the latest honor coming three years ago, when he was inducted into the HBCU Alumni Hall of Fame. Jeffries is also enshrined – among others -- in the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame (2013), the Black College Football Hall of Fame (2011) and the Kansas Hall of Fame (2011). He is also in the SCSU Athletic Hall of Fame (1998), the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, the MEAC Hall of Fame, the Wichita State Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.
During the 2001 season, which became a farewell tour after he announced that that season would be his last, Jeffries received numerous honors and gifts, including the Order of the Silver Crescent, the Palmetto State’s highest award for outstanding community service. He had earlier received the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian award. A scholarship fund and endowment have been established in his name at S.C. State.
And, during the 2002 school year, he was honored by the Black Coaches’ Association (BCA) with a lifetime achievement award and inducted into the Palmetto State’s Black Hall of Fame.
In addition to his bachelor’s, Jeffries earned a master’s in guidance and counseling from S.C. State in 1966, and did further study at the University of Indiana.
He is a member of several coaching, professional and civic organizations, including the American Football Coaches Association, and has served on the NCAA Football Rules Committee. In addition, he is a board member of the South Carolina Ports Authority.
Jeffries is a life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., and has been an outstanding ambassador to SCSU, the Orangeburg community, the Palmetto State and the nation.
He and his wife, Mary, are the parents of three children – Valerie, Tamara, and Willie (Jeff) Jr., and five grandchildren.
College Coaching Record
Year School Record Percentage
2001 S.C. State 6-5-0 0.545
2000 S.C. State 3-8-0 0.273
1999 S.C. State 4-6-0 0.400
1998 S.C. State 5-6-0 0.454
1997 S.C. State 9-3-0 0.750
1996 S.C. State 4-6-0 0.400
1995 S.C. State 6-4-0 0.600
1994 S.C. State 10-2-0 0.833
1993 S.C. State 8-4-0 0.727
1992 S.C. State 7-4-0 0.640
1991 S.C. State 7-4-0 0.640
1990 S.C. State 4-6-0 0.400
1989 S.C. State 5-6-0 0.454
1988 Howard 7-4-0 0.636
1987 Howard 0-10-0 0.000
1986 Howard 8-3-0 0.727
1985 Howard 4-7-0 0.364
1984 Howard 2-8-0 0.200
1983 Wichita State 3-8-0 0.273
1982 Wichita State 8-3-0 0.727
1981 Wichita State 4-6-1 0.409
1980 Wichita State 5-5-1 0.500
1979 Wichita State 1-10-0 0.091
1978 S.C. State 8-2-1 0.773
1977 S.C. State 9-1-1 0.864
1976 S.C. State 10-1-0 0.909
1975 S.C. State 8-2-1 0.773
1974 S.C. State 8-4-0 0.677
1973 S.C. State 7-3-1 0.683
TOTAL CAREER 179-132-6 0.575