On November 21, 1982, the Clemson football program was placed on probation for a 2-year period to include the 1983 and 1984 seasons. This sanction was enforced on the program by the NCAA Committee on Infractions due to a lengthy history of recruiting violations meant to gain an athletic advantage. These recruiting violations took place from 1977 through the Tigers’ 1981 National Championship season and into 1982, under the administration of two head coaches, Charlie Pell and Danny Ford. The Atlantic Coast Conference imposed a third year of conference penalty.
Over 150 documented violations were found to have been committed under NCAA bylaws in the categories of improper recruiting inducements, extra benefits to student-athletes, unethical conduct, improper financial aid, improper campus visits, improper transportation and entertainment, improper use of funds, improper employment, improper recruiting contact, and distribution of cash to players by members of the coaching staff.
As a result of these violations, Clemson was barred from participating in bowl games following the 1982 and 1983 seasons, and barred from appearing on live television in the 1983 and 1984 seasons. Also, the number of scholarships that the university could allocate to football players was restricted to 20 (from the normal limit of 30) for the 1983-84 and 1984-85 academic years. The Tigers, however, were allowed to keep their 1978 and 1981 ACC titles as well as the 1981 national title.
Charles Alan Wright, chairman of the NCAA Committee on Infractions said at the time, “Due to the large number and serious nature of the violations in this case, the committee believed that institutional sanctions related to appearances on television and in postseason football bowl games were appropriate. In addition, because the violations indicated a pattern of improper recruiting activities, the committee determined that a two-year limitation on financial aid to new recruits should be imposed to offset any recruiting advantage that was gained improperly by the university.”
After the probation period, Clemson won three straight ACC titles between 1986 and 1988, including a 35-10 victory over Penn State and a 13-6 defeat of the Oklahoma Sooners in the Florida Citrus Bowl. In 1989, Clemson registered a 10-2 season and top-12 national ranking for the fourth straight season, and ended his career at Clemson with a 27–7 win over West Virginia (and All-America quarterback Major Harris) in the 1989 Gator Bowl.
Just five years after their probation ended, Clemson once again found their football program accused of multiple recruiting violations in January 1990. The NCAA accused Clemson of giving cash to players and having illegal contact with recruits over a period from 1984 to 1988. In June 1990, the Tigers found themselves on probation once again, for the second time in less than a decade. This chain of events contributed, in part, to the forced resignation of popular head coach Danny Ford.[