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Jerry Claiborne (August 2, 1928 – September 24, 2000) was an American football player and coach. He served as the head football coach at Virginia Tech (1961–1970), the University of Maryland (1972–1981), and his alma mater, the University of Kentucky (1982–1989), compiling a career college football record of 179–122–8. Claiborne was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1999.

Jerry Claiborne
Jerry Claiborne 1975.jpg
Claiborne, circa 1975
Biographical details
Born(1928-08-26)August 26, 1928
Hopkinsville, Kentucky
DiedSeptember 24, 2000(2000-09-24) (aged 72)
Nashville, Tennessee
Alma materUniversity of Kentucky
Playing career
1946, 1948–1949Kentucky
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1954–1957Texas A&M (assistant)
1958–1960Alabama (assistant)
1961–1970Virginia Tech
Head coaching record
Accomplishments and honors
1 SoCon (1963)
3 ACC (1974–1976)
Sporting News College Football COY (1974)
3x ACC Coach of the Year (1973, 1975–1976)
SEC Coach of the Year (1983)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1999 (profile)


Early yearsEdit

Claiborne attended the Hopkinsville High School and the University of Kentucky and was named the College of Education's Outstanding Senior. Claiborne played halfback under legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant at the University of Kentucky. In 1950, he became the head football and basketball coach at Augusta Military Academy in Fort Defiance, Augusta County, Virginia. His teams won the Virginia State basketball championship in 1950 and the football championship in 1951. The following year, he left to become Bryant's assistant coach at Kentucky, following Bryant in the same capacity to Texas A&M and Alabama before he moved up to become a head coach.

Head coachEdit

Claiborne was head coach for the Virginia Polytechnic Institute from 1961 to 1970 with an overall record of 69–32–2. Claiborne's legacy was carried on by Frank Beamer, who played for Claiborne at Virginia Tech. Beamer built the program into a powerhouse in the mid-1990s. Claiborne's contributions to Tech's football program earned him a place in the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.

When Claiborne began coaching at the University of Maryland, the Terrapins had only won nine games in the previous five years. Claiborne led Maryland to a winning season after only his second year with the team. He coached Maryland for ten years and ended with a 77–37–3 record, including an undefeated regular season in 1976, before losing to Houston in the Cotton Bowl Classic. Beginning in 1973, his teams made it to six consecutive bowl games. In 1980, he added one more bowl appearance for a total of seven. Under Claiborne, Maryland won the ACC Championship three times (1974, 1975, and 1976).

After the 1981 season at Maryland, Claiborne followed in the footsteps of Bear Bryant and went from College Park, Maryland, to Lexington, Kentucky; the home of the University of Kentucky. In Claiborne's case, Kentucky was his alma mater. UK had just come off four straight losing seasons. They offered Claiborne the head coaching position largely to help clean up a program that had been racked by numerous recruiting violations during the tenure of previous head coach Fran Curci.

Claiborne took over as head coach of Kentucky in 1982. After starting with a losing season record of 0–10–1, he reached bowl games in his second and third seasons, posting records of 6–5–1 in 1983 and 9–3 in 1984 after which the Wildcats finished the season ranked #19 in the final AP poll. The Wildcats win in the 1984 Hall of Fame Classic over Wisconsin would be the Wildcats' last bowl win until winning the 2006 Music City Bowl over Clemson. Claiborne was never able to put together another winning team, getting no closer than 5–5–1 in 1986. However, due in part to his role in cleaning up the program's image, he remained in the good graces of Kentucky fans. Claiborne led the Kentucky program for eight years, ending with an overall record of 41–46–3. He retired after posting a 6–5 record in the 1989 season.

In 1992 Claiborne became the head coach of the Braunschweig Lions, and then German Division II Football team in Germany. During his one-year stay he laid the foundation for an organization, that became a European football powerhouse.

Significant achievementsEdit

  • Claiborne coached four Academic All-Americans and eighty-seven all-conference academics.
  • Named the nation's Coach of the Year by the Sporting News in 1974.
  • Named Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year in 1983.
  • Claiborne's Kentucky team won the College Football Association Academic Achievement Award for the highest graduation rate of 90% in 1989.
  • The University of Kentucky named Claiborne into its Alumni Hall of Fame in 1992.
  • In 1994, Claiborne received the Neyland Trophy, which is presented annually to a coach "who has contributed greatly to intercollegiate athletics" [1]
  • In 1999 the Lexington, Kentucky's chapter of the National Football Foundation was named after Claiborne.
  • Retired with a lifetime record of 179–122–8, ranking him fourth among active college coaches in victories when he retired.

Famous quoteEdit

It was Jerry Claiborne who said: "Sam Cunningham did more for integration in sixty minutes than Martin Luther King did in twenty years."[2] (After a 1970 42-21 loss in Birmingham to USC, and having Cunningham score two touchdowns and gain 131 yards, the integration of the Alabama football team was accelerated. However, Alabama did have an African-American player on the team at the time in Wilbur Jackson. Like all freshmen at the time, he was ineligible.)

Head coaching recordEdit

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
VPI Gobblers (Southern Conference) (1961–1964)
1961 VPI 4–5 2–3 7th
1962 VPI 5–5 2–3 6th
1963 VPI 8–2 5–0 1st
1964 VPI 6–4 3–1 2nd
VPI / Virginia Tech Gobblers (NCAA University Division independent) (1965–1970)
1965 VPI 7–3
1966 VPI 8–2–1 L Liberty 20
1967 VPI 7–3
1968 VPI 7–4 L Liberty
1969 VPI 4–5–1
1970 Virginia Tech 5–6
VPI / Virginia Tech: 61–39–2 12–7
Maryland Terrapins (Atlantic Coast Conference) (1972–1981)
1972 Maryland 5–5–1 3–2–1 3rd
1973 Maryland 8–4 5–1 2nd L Peach 18 20
1974 Maryland 8–4 6–0 1st L Liberty 13 13
1975 Maryland 9–2–1 5–0 1st W Gator 11 13
1976 Maryland 11–1 5–0 1st L Cotton 11 8
1977 Maryland 8–4 4–2 T–3rd W Hall of Fame Classic
1978 Maryland 9–3 5–1 2nd L Sun 20
1979 Maryland 7–4 4–2 T–2nd
1980 Maryland 8–4 5–1 2nd L Tangerine
1981 Maryland 4–6–1 4–2 3rd
Maryland: 77–37–3 46–11–1
Kentucky Wildcats (Southeastern Conference) (1982–1989)
1982 Kentucky 0–10–1 0–6 T–8th
1983 Kentucky 6–5–1 2–4 4th L Hall of Fame Classic
1984 Kentucky 9–3 3–3 T–4th W Hall of Fame Classic 19 19
1985 Kentucky 5–6 1–5 7th
1986 Kentucky 5–5–1 2–4 T–4th
1987 Kentucky 5–6 1–5 T–7th
1988 Kentucky 5–6 2–5 T–8th
1989 Kentucky 6–5 2–5 T–7th
Kentucky: 41–46–3 13–37
Total: 179–122–8
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth

Coaching treeEdit

Assistant coaches under Jerry Claiborne who became NCAA or NFL head coaches:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "General Robert R Neyland Trophy". 2017. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  2. ^ John David, Briley (2006). Career in Crisis: Paul "Bear" Bryant and the 1971 Season of Change. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press. p. 139. Retrieved January 21, 2015.

External linksEdit