Willie Jeffries is a college football Hall of Fame honoree who has amassed a number of championships across three decades. He is also the first Black head coach of a Division I-A and predominately white football team, achieving the feat in 1979.
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Jeffries was born January 4, 1937 in Union, S.C. A former center at South Carolina State University, Jeffries’ assistant coaching career began in 1960 at Barr Street High School in Lancaster. From 1968 until 1971, Jeffries was a defensive line coach at North Carolina A&T. The following year, he was hired as an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh.
The first of Jeffries’ stints with South Carolina State began in 1973 when he was named head coach. During his time there, he won the first of his two Black College National Championships and four of his MEAC championships.
Predominantly white Wichita State University made the historic hire in 1979, and he led the team until 1984. The following year, Jeffries took over head coaching duties at Howard University, winning a MEAC championship there in 1987.
After leaving Howard in 1988, Jeffries returned to South Carolina State and eventually got the squad back to its winning ways when he guided them to win a MEAC and Black College National Championship. He stepped down from the team in 2001.
In 2010, Jeffries was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. That same year, South Carolina State renamed its football field after Jeffries.
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