Contributed by AU Athletics
Auburn greats Willie Anderson, Hal Baird and Cliff Ellis were announced as members of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2021 Wednesday.
Anderson, Baird and Ellis are three of the eight newly inducted honorees announced by the Board of Directors of the State of Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. The complete list can be found at: www.ashof.org/2020/12/02/alabama-sports-hall-of-fame-announces-class-of-2021/.
Anderson played offensive tackle at Auburn from 1993-95, where he was named All-America and twice named All-SEC. He was selected No. 10 overall in the 1996 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and went on to be a four-time Pro Bowler and three-time First Team All-Pro selection. Anderson played his first 12 seasons with the Bengals before playing his final season with the Baltimore Ravens in 2008. During his NFL career, he played in 195 games, starting 184. Anderson only surrendered 16 sacks in his 13-year career and did not give up a sack between 1999-2001.
“After being inducted into the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame in 2011, I found out more about the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame at that time,” Anderson said. “I always wondered what the requirements were and really wanted to be involved in that. I’ve seen former Auburn players from Georgia — Takeo Spikes and Ronnie Brown — make it recently.
“For guys from Alabama, it really means a lot to us. You see names like DeMarcus Ware and Ben Wallace, guys who I saw play professionally, and Coach Baird and Coach Ellis. It’s definitely a big honor for me to be honored by my state, with me being from Alabama. Along with the rest of the people being honored, it’s a big deal for us.”
In 16 years at the helm of the Auburn baseball program from 1985-2000, Baird posted a 634-328 career record, retiring as the winningest coach in program history and the fourth winningest coach in the history of the SEC. He guided the Tigers to a pair of College World Series appearances (1994, ‘97), three NCAA regional championships (1994, ‘97, ‘99), two SEC Tournament titles (1989, ‘98) and two SEC West crowns (1987, ‘95).
Baird mentored 13 All-Americans during his career in the orange and blue, and 51 of his players went on to hear their names called in the MLB Draft, including Bo Jackson, Tim Hudson and Frank Thomas.
“It’s the first time for me to have a chance to enter a hall of fame in which three of my former players are in there,” Baird said. “Bo Jackson, Tim Hudson and Frank Thomas, all three are enshrined in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. That’s an over-the-top for me. That really does make it particularly satisfying.”
Baird pitched at Eastern Carolina, where he recorded 105 strikeouts in the 1970-71 seasons. He was drafted by the Cleveland Indians and also played for the Kansas City Royals. In 1977, he returned to ECU as an assistant coach and was named head coach in 1980. He accumulated a 145-66-1 record, three NCAA Tournament appearances and two ECAC-South Championships. He is also set to be inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in January.
“It’s really overwhelming,” Baird said. “The Alabama Sports Hall of Fame is widely considered to be the best in the country. Everyone who’s ever had any experience with it, as an inductee or going to the banquet, says there’s nothing in the world done any better. To think about this state and the number of unbelievable people who have come out in every sport, Major League Baseball hall of famers, NFL hall of famers, it’s very humbling. I couldn’t hardly believe it when I got the call.”
From 1994-2004, Ellis was the head basketball coach at Auburn, where he won 186 games, second only to Joel Eaves, and was named the SEC Coach of the Year twice. Ellis led the 1998-99 Tigers to the SEC Championship and the Sweet 16 with a 29-4 record and was named the National Coach of the Year. The Tigers also reached the Sweet 16 during the 2002-03 season.
“The 10 years I spent at Auburn were precious times that I’ll never forget,” Ellis said. “I have a lot of great memories. Without those 10 years, this would not be happening. I’m thankful for all the people who have been a part of it. I’m truly blessed by it.”
After starting his college coaching career at Cumberland University, Ellis was hired as the head coach at South Alabama in 1975. Four years later, he had the Jaguars in the NCAA Tournament and six seasons later they were ranked in the top 10.
From 1975-84, he led the Jaguars to three Sun Belt titles, two NCAA Tournament appearances and two NIT appearances. After the 1984 season, he was named the head coach at Clemson, where he led the Tigers to eight postseason appearances, including three NCAA Tournament appearances, in 10 seasons.
During the 1989-90 season, Ellis led Clemson to its only ACC title in school history and made it to the Sweet 16. He was a two-time ACC Coach of the Year (1987 and 1990) and is currently the winningest coach in program history. Since 2007, Ellis has coached at Coastal Carolina, where he is second all-time in wins. Going into the 2020-21 season, Ellis’ 780 NCAA Division I wins rank him 15th all-time and third among active coaches.
“I’m honored and humbled by it,” Ellis said. “When you look at the roster and the people who are in there, it’s very touching. I think the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame probably sets the tone for all the states because when you look at the people involved with it, it’s really amazing. I’m really touched by it. For me, my first thoughts go to the players who played for me at Auburn and South Alabama. All the players who played for me, all the coaches who were part of this.”
The 53rd Annual Induction Banquet and Ceremony will be held in the Birmingham Ballroom, at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel, on May 8, 2021. For more information or two purchase tickets, contact the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Museum at 205-323-6665.