WVU Sports Hall of Fame
Written by Greg Walker
The late Clarence "Doc" Spears owns the highest winning percentage of any Mountaineer football coach with at least a four-year tenure. During his years at WVU from 1921-24, Dr. Spears compiled a record of 30-6-3, good for a winning percentage of .808.
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Born in DeWitt, Ark., Spears had the distinction of coaching three All-Americans in Russ Meredith, Fred Graham and Red Mahan and also had four second team All-America picks. He led WVU to its first bowl game in 1922, San Diego's East-West Game, where the Mountaineers defeated Gonzaga 21-13 to cap a 10-0-1 season for the first undefeated season in school history.
The 1922 team racked up victories against Pitt, Rutgers, Cincinnati, Indiana, Virginia and Ohio, among others. The only blemish during that season was a 12-12 tie versus Washington & Lee. Spears' charges outscored the opposition 267-34 in 1922 and posted seven shutouts.
His WVU teams showed records of 5-4-1, 10-0-1, 7-1-1 and 8-1 respectively. His 1924 squad was the first to play at Old Mountaineer Field, christening the facility with a 21-6 victory against West Virginia Wesleyan on September 27 of that year.
Spears' football roots trace back to Kewanee High School in Kewanee, Ill. After a solid prep career, the 230-lb. Spears went on to earn consensus All-America honors as a guard at Dartmouth in 1914 and 1915 for legendary coach Frank Cavanaugh. The Big Green posted a 16-2-1 mark those two years.
His alma mater was his first coaching stop, leading Dartmouth to a 21-9-1 record in four years, including a 28-7 win at Washington to give the Big Green its first-ever West Coast victory. Spears then went on to coach at West Virginia, Minnesota, Oregon, Wisconsin, Toledo and Maryland. Led by the great Bronko Nagurski, Spears' 1927 Minnesota team went undefeated. His battles with Notre Dame's Knute Rockne are legendary in Midwestern football lore.
During his tenure at Dartmouth, Spears found the time to finish his medical degree from the University of Chicago and Rush Medical School. In fact, "Doc" Spears maintained a surgical practice during his time in Morgantown.
After a 30-year football career, Spears finally retired from coaching in 1945 to practice medicine on a full-time basis in Ypsilanti, Mich. He also served in either a scouting or medical capacity for several NFL teams, including the Green Bay Packers, Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1955. Spears and his wife Cornelia had three children: son Robert, who captained the 1951 Yale football team, and daughters Mrs. Alfred C. LeFeber and Mrs. Allison S. Fulford. Spears died February 1, 1964, at Jupiter, Fla. He was 69 years old.