Tommy West, a native of Gainesville, Georgia, became Clemson's twenty-third head football coach when he took over the reins on November 29, 1993 and led the Tigers for five seasons, 1993 to 1998. His Clemson record included four bowl appearances, 12 road wins, 86 school records and an unsurpassed academic record of excellence. He took the Tigers to three straight post-season games between 1995 and 1997, only the second Clemson coach to take the team to three consecutive bowls.
A former tight end for the Tennessee Volunteers, West had first been a linebacker coach for Clemson under Danny Ford from 1982 to 1989. On November 20, 1993 Ken Hatfield secured a 16-13 win over South Carolina in Columbia, and then announced that he was leaving Clemson four days later. Tommy West was hired as the new head coach within the week and led the Tigers to a 14-13 win over Kentucky in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia on December 31. He was the first coach ever to secure a bowl win who had not previously been associated with the team in the preceding regular season.
Academically, 61 Clemson football players made the ACC academic honor roll in West's last four years, twice as many as the best previous four-year total in Clemson history. Each of the three highest single year totals took place while West was coaching and the team had a 20-year best cumulative GPA entering the 1998 season.
West finished his Clemson career with a 31-28 record, including four wins over Top 25 teams. Despite the fact that he was being let go by the university, a clear sign of how well respected and liked Tommy West was, was that his players carried him off the field at the end of his last game as head of the Tigers. He is now head coach of the Memphis Tigers where he took them to a nine-win season and their first bowl appearance in 32 years in 2003, followed by another bowl in 2004.
West, 55, was dismissed Monday, November 9, 2009, after nine seasons as the University of Memphis' coach and two days after the team dropped a 56-28 decision to the University of Tennessee. It was the Tigers' seventh loss and guaranteed a losing season for the third time in four years.
However, West, in a blistering critique, said the program is doomed to underachieve until the U of M addresses a lack of facilities and overall funding and fully commits to football.
"At some point in time you've got to say, 'We've got to help this football program,'" West said. "We've got to do the things necessary to make this what we want it or do away with it."
West, who took the program to five bowls in nine years, will coach the team's remaining three games starting with Saturday's home finale against UAB. The Tigers (2-7, 1-4 Conference USA) end the season with road games at Houston and Tulsa.
|Preceded by: Ken Hatfield||Clemson University Football Coach||Succeeded by: Tommy Bowden|