(March 24, 1879 – March 20, 1938)
Iowa State Athletics Hall of Fame football, basketball and baseball coach.
Prior to becoming a pioneer of athletics at Iowa State, Clyde S. Williams was a 1903 graduate of the University of Iowa's School of Dentistry where he played college football for the Iowa Hawkeyes from 1898 – 1901. In his four seasons as starting quarterback at Iowa, Williams never lost a game and graduated with a 23–0–3 record. An all-round athlete, he earned 11 letters at Iowa; four in football, four in baseball, and three in track.
Following his college athletics career, Williams practiced dentistry for two years in Knoxville, Iowa. Soon he decided to pursue a professional baseball career, whilst serving as assistant coach for the Hawkeye and then Cornell College baseball teams. Williams played second baseman, shortstop and third baseman for the Sioux Falls Canaries and the Marshalltown Grays / Brownies before taking his first head coach role with the Iowa State baseball team in 1906. Williams would go on to represent the St. Paul Saints and the Toledo Mud Hens which led to being drafted by the Philadelphia Athletics – however Williams did not report. Following this, he was a part-time performer with Des Moines in the Western League in 1909 and 1910, until his career came to a sudden end. He suffered a broken wrist when struck by a hard pitch.
Despite already being both a professional sportsman and college baseball coach, Williams accepted the role of assistant football coach of the Iowa State Cyclones in 1906. Just a year later, he was promoted to head coach of the football team and had started the men’s basketball program at Iowa State.
A true multi-tasker and innovator, Williams is perhaps best remembered for his work with the Iowa State football team from 1907 – 1912. Williams was one of the first coaches to implement the overhand pass and the running punt which helped the 1907 team to a 7-1 record in his first year, falling only to the University of Minnesota.1 The Cyclones were considered the state of Iowa champions that year after beating all the Iowa colleges they played during the season.
In his time as coach, Williams twice led Iowa State to becoming champions of the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MVIAA) conference, the predecessor to today’s Big 12 conference, in 1911 and 1912. On both occasions, the Cyclones tied for first place with Nebraska in what remains their only conference football championships in the school’s history.
The Homecoming game of 1912 would be Williams' first and only homecoming game as head football coach. Ahead of the big game, an anonymous individual presented Williams the play sheet from rival Iowa and said “Here are the plays and signals of the Iowa team.” Williams, showing a great example of sportsmanship, tore them up.
Despite the Iowa Hawkeyes coming away with the win (Iowa State 7, Iowa 20), this first Homecoming set traditions for Homecoming festivities in future years. People camped out for hours waiting for tickets, and alumni strolled through campus to see lawn displays, as well as "Beat Iowa" signs throughout campus.
During Williams' tenure, Iowa State saw some of its greatest successes and winning seasons. Retiring from football coaching in 1912, Clyde Williams left Iowa State with a record of 33-14-2 (.694), which up to that time was the best in the college's history. To this day, Williams is ranked the fifth best coach in wins, and the fourth in percent for Iowa State football history.
It would seem that Williams could not stay away from Iowa State for too long as in 1914 he returned, this time in an administrative role, to become Iowa State’s athletics director. The same year, Williams became one of six men to sign the $40,000 bank note for the construction of State Field. Completed in 1915, it was the Cyclones’ football stadium until 1975 when it was replaced by the Jack Trice Stadium.
Williams held the position of director until 1919, which included a second stint as baseball coach from 1916 – 1918. At the end of the academic year, Williams finally retired from all Iowa State duties and launched a business in the automobile industry with his previous Cyclones football assistant coach, Homer Hubbard.
Clyde Williams died after months of illness on March 20, 1938 in Sheldon, Iowa, just four days shy of his 59th birthday. In his honor, the State Field was renamed the ‘Clyde Williams Field’ shortly after his death. Williams was inducted into the State of Iowa Hall of Fame in 1956. He is also one of the few people inducted into both the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame (inducted 1993) and the Iowa State Athletics Hall of Fame (inducted 1997).
Most recently, in 2011, the Clyde Williams Society was established. The all-time cumulative giving program recognizes the Iowa State Athletics Department's most generous and loyal supporters.
Alex Halsted and Dylan Montz, ’21. Clyde Williams,’ 100 Things Iowa State Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die (USA: Triumph Books, 2015).
Obituary: The Des Moines Register, 21 Mar 1938, Mon, Page 5.