Funeral Today for Legend

Funeral Today for Legend
For Victor "Dwane" Clodfelter, the Biblical tale of David and Goliath offered a role model for his University of South Dakota basketball teams.

Clodfelter coached the Coyote teams for more than a decade, bringing home the school's only national basketball championship in 1958. As a way to prepare his squads, he loaded up his schedule with some of the best major-college teams in the nation.

Clodfelter's teams traveled and hosted Division I basketball powers, including Marquette, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Minnesota, Creighton, Drake, Oklahoma, Illinois, Cincinnati and Bradley. During the early 1960s, USD played then-defending national champion Loyola-Chicago on the road. On another occasion, the team played eventual champion Texas Western in 1965-66 � earning the Coyotes a mention in the current movie Glory Road.

Clodfelter, 87, of Vermillion, died Sunday, April 23, at Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City, IA.

His funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, April 28, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Vermillion, with burial to follow in BluffView Cemetery in Vermillion.

Visitation was Thursday, April 27 at the Hansen Funeral Home in Vermillion.

Considered one of the true gentlemen in college athletics, Clodfelter was a significant part of the South Dakota Athletics Department for nearly 30 years and he was associated with the athletics program for more than 50 years. Clodfelter had a legacy of success as a coach, administrator and teacher.

"We have suffered a huge loss with the passing of Coach Clodfelter. He was a special person who always thought of others first. He was dedicated to helping young people and for that the university and this community is forever grateful," said USD Athletics Director Joel Nielsen. "He touched and impacted thousands of lives during a lifetime of achievement. Our hearts are with the Clodfelter family."

Didn't back down

"Cloddy didn't back away from anybody. Nowadays, colleges load up the start of their schedule with smaller schools. Back then, he played the big universities. He thought it made his team better prepared," said Hod Nielsen, a longtime friend and fellow USD Hall of Fame member.

Clodfelter was a standout athlete at Woonsocket High School.

Prior to coming to USD as a freshman coach in 1953, he had high school coaching jobs at Centerville (1943-49), Yankton (1949-1950), and Huron (1950-53) with his teams never suffering a losing season. He coached Centerville High to two Class B state track titles.

He remains the only coach to direct both Class A and B squads to state track crowns.

As a young baseball player, he once stroked a base hit off

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Hall of Fame baseball player Satchel Paige, who was barnstorming in South Dakota in the 1930s.

Clodfelter was named an assistant basketball and freshman football coach at USD in 1953 by then Athletic Director Carl "Rube" Hoy. Clodfelter, who was named head coach of basketball in 1954, produced a 149-153 (.493) record from 1954-67.

In NCC play, he directed the men's basketball team to an 89-67 record (.571 winning percentage). He will forever be linked to one of the greatest all-time basketball teams � the 1957-58 squad which won a national title, the only in school history.

Clodfelter's presence was already missed Monday, said Jack Doyle, former USD men's basketball coach and athletic director now working with the USD Foundation. Doyle helped set up the Clodfelter Scholarship in 2005 to help student-athletes.

"We had Quarterback Club today (Monday), and there was a moment of silence out of respect for Cloddy. You are saddened knowing he is not going to be here," Doyle said. "A group of guys drink coffee on Thursday mornings, and he was one of those individuals who was always the life of the group. He had a very clever sense of humor."


During the 1957-58 national championship season, Clodfelter directed the Coyotes to a 22-5 record, culminating with a 75-53 win over St. Michael's of Vermont in the small-college championship at Evansville, IN. Clodfelter's 1958 team won its final 20 games and became the first North Central Conference (NCC) team to go unbeaten in league play for a 12-game schedule.

His teams set the state record for consecutive home wins of 34 from 1956-59. He had a 32-3 record from 1956-59 in NCC games.

He ended his coaching career after the 1966-67 season due to health concerns but returned to USD to coach golf and served as an assistant athletic director until retiring in 1982.

Clodfelter has carved a place in history for USD basketball with the 1958 national title, Doyle said.

"I had the opportunity to serve on the Division II basketball committee for five years, and every year I had the opportunity to attend the Elite 8 and see the USD banner hanging from the rafters," Doyle said. "I always came back and said, ?Cloddy, I saw your banner,' and he smiled."

Jay Hennies, who played for Clodfelter from 1961-65 and was his graduate assistant in 1965-66, was on the receiving end of Clodfelter's unorthodox recruiting approach.

"I grew up in Wagner and was all signed, sealed and delivered to (South Dakota State)," Hennies said. "But come summer time, after graduation from high school, Cloddy was in Wagner, pulling a boat with all these nice things to say (to me). I got thinking, Vermillion would be a lot closer to home, and a guy who comes to see me pulling a boat can't be all bad."

Hennies changed his mind � there were no letters of intent during that era � and headed to USD. His memories of playing for the Coyotes go far beyond wins and losses.

"It was unbelievable what Cloddy gave us. We played Loyola, the national champions, in Chicago on Saturday night. The next day, we were sitting in Wrigley Field, watching a very key game between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. I'll never know how he got those tickets," Hennies said.

Incredible games

The Coyotes also played incredible games against major opponents, Hennies said. In one game, USD led Purdue � who featured the nation's top individual scorer � with less than a minute to play before losing. Another time, the Coyotes narrowly lost to Nebraska, which had just knocked off a Michigan team with future NBA star Cazzie Russell.

"We have lost a great friend," said Jack Theeler, a USD graduate (BSBA ?68, JD ?71) and an attorney from Mitchell. "He was a mentor and someone that was an outstanding teacher, coach and role model. He loved to hunt and fish and was a great sports enthusiast." Theeler has served as the honorary chair for the Dwane Clodfelter Scholarship which was established at USD in 2005 to help fund scholarships for student-athletes.

"We will miss him, especially his sense of humor and his ability to make everyone feel important. He was a father figure to many young men and women at USD. More than that, he was a special friend," said Theeler, who played for Clodfelter at USD in the mid-1960s.

Clodfelter, who earned an undergraduate degree from USD in 1947, was a person known for his story and joke-telling.

"He made everyone laugh and feel good about themselves," said Theeler.

Clodfelter was a prot�g� of legendary coaches like Fred Taylor of Ohio State, Bud Foster of Wisconsin and others. He served on the same basketball committee as UCLA coaching legend John Wooden.

He never gave up

Then there was the 1965-66 game against eventual national champion Texas Western, which made NCAA history by starting an entirely black lineup against all-white Kentucky coached by the legendary Adolph Rupp.

"We played Texas Western when I was a graduate assistant. We were playing at the Quad Cities in Iowa," Hennies said. "We were in a tournament with Las Vegas, Creighton, USD and Texas Western. What a real treat to watch Texas Western play two nights in a row � and we played them in one of the games."

Clodfelter was a caring person who didn't get down on others who made mistakes, Hennies said.

"Cloddy was the type of guy who wasn't going to give up on a person. He knew how to make you better," he said. "You shed tears when your parents pass away, and when Cloddy passed away I shed tears. The word is out (about his death), and for hours my phone has been ringing off the hook with calls about him."

Clodfelter remained close to his players over the last half-century, Doyle said. During the past year, Clodfelter was honored during a pheasant hunt at Mitchell, a basketball game at the DakotaDome and at an alumni gathering at a Phoenix Suns game.

"He was just happy to see the players and fans," Doyle said.

Clodfelter was known and respected across the state and nation by other coaches, Doyle said. But Clodfelter was more than a coach � he was a good person and good friend, Nielsen said.

"Cloddy was a great husband. He and his wife were so much in love. They thought so much of one another," Nielsen said. "They had good kids, and he was a good family man. He had a great sense of values."

USD Sports Information Director Dan Genzler contributed to this story.

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