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Bill Wilhelm: The Architect Of Clemson Baseball

Bill Wilhelm spent his 36 years as a head coach in college baseball leading the Clemson program. Despite never winning a national championship, Wilhelm turned Clemson Baseball into an national power.

For longtime fans of Clemson baseball, the mere mention of the name Bill Wilhelm probably conjures up a multitude of memories. After spending 36 years leading the program, his name became synonymous with Tiger baseball.

Prior to his coaching career, Wilhelm spent two seasons (1948-49) playing catcher at N.C. State, before signing a professional contract to play for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1950.

Over the next seven years, Wilhelm made stops at eight different minor league clubs, on top of spending two years in the United States Army in 1951-52. 

After his playing days were over, Wilhelm spent one season as an assistant coach at North Carolina before accepting the position as head coach at Clemson in September of 1957. He would go onto spend the rest of his career at Clemson.

It didn't take long for Wilhelm to put his mark on the program. In his first two seasons on the job, Clemson won ACC championships, along with making their first two appearances in the College World Series. 

Although the Tigers would only make one NCAA tournament appearance over the next 13 years, Wilhelm was quietly building his program. 

With the advent of the ACC Tournament in 1973, Clemson began a stretch of 11 regular season conference championships in 13 seasons (through 1985), including seven straight from 1973–1979.

Over that 13-year stretch, the Tigers also advanced to the College World Series three more times, in 1976, 1977, and 1980. 

From 1982-86, the Tigers failed to make the NCAA tournament, despite winning the regular-season ACC championship on three different occasions. 

Beginning in 1987, Clemson went on a run in which they made the NCAA tournament seven consecutive seasons, which would coincide with the final seven seasons of Wilhelm's career. They averaged 51 wins per season over that stretch.

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They won three more ACC tournaments and three more regular-season crowns, as well as making another College World Series appearance. That includes a 60-10 season in 1991, in which they went 18-3 in ACC play. 

Wilhelm retired following the 1993 season with a 1,161-536-10 (.683) record. At the time of his retirement, the 1,161 wins made him the fifth-winningest coach in the history of college baseball. 

In his 36 years leading the program, the Tigers never had a losing season. 

In December of 2010, Wilhelm passed away at the age of 81. Since his passing he has been inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011, and the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame and Clemson Hall of Fame in 2012.

“When I think of Clemson University I think of him. He was what Clemson is all about. He was tough, he was honest, he was competitive and he took pride in everything he did." -Former Clemson head coach Jack Leggett in 2010 after Wilhelm's death

In 2013, he was given the highest honor of all in Clemson athletics, as he was inducted into the prestigious Ring of Honor. 

When he retired, Wilhelm had accomplished what he set out to do, building Clemson baseball into a nationally relevant program. 

During his career, the Tigers made six appearances in the College World Series. They made the NCAA tournament 17 times, won 11 ACC championships, 19 ACC regular-season titles, and had 16 top-25 finishes. 

Wilhelm coached 20 All-Americans, 27 players who went onto play Major League Baseball, and 88 first-team All-ACC selections. A hundred of his former players went on to sign major league contracts. 

Wilhelm was and still is, a name that personifies Clemson baseball. He left a lasting impression on the program, and the fans need to look no further than the outfield wall at Doug Kingsmore Stadium to be reminded of his impression on the program.