Legendary coach Dick Sheridan, who led Orangeburg-Wilkinson to its only state championship in football, died Thursday.

The former North Carolina State and Furman coach was 81.

Sheridan died at Grand Strand Medical Center in Myrtle Beach, his son, Jon, told Furman athletic department spokesman Hunter Reid.

Sheridan, who was from Augusta, Georgia, began his college coaching tenure at Furman in 1978, leading the Paladins to the Division I-AA (now Football Championship Subdivision) title game in 1985.

Sheridan was hired by the Wolfpack in 1986 and had six winning seasons in his seven years leading the program. He went 59-29-3 at NC State and made six bowl games.

Sheridan stepped away from the team in June 1993 at the age of 51, citing health issues and saying the death of his friend, Wolfpack basketball coach Jim Valvano, impacted his decision.

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Sheridan and TD Club

Former Orangeburg-Wilkinson state championship football coach, Furman coach and NC State coach Dick Sheridan speaks to the Orangeburg Touchdown Club at The Cinema on Oct. 25, 2018, as S.C. State head football coach Buddy Pough, a former player for Sheridan, enjoys the comments.

The 1986 Bobby Dodd College Football Coach of the Year was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2020.

“He was such a special man, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Sheridan family,” said Furman coach Clay Hendrix, who played for Sheridan’s Paladins.

“I have such great respect for Coach Sheridan and am saddened to hear this news,” NC State football coach Dave Doeren said via a story posted to gopack.com, the official website of NC State Athletics. “He did so much to build the football program at NC State and impacted many players, coaches and staff during his time as coach. I enjoyed getting to know him during my time here.”

The Orangeburg years

Sheridan, who never played college football, began his coaching career as an assistant football coach and head basketball coach at Eau Claire High School in Columbia shortly after graduating from the University of South Carolina. In three seasons, he took his hoops squad to the state semifinals and finals.

Sheridan’s first head-coaching job in football was in Orangeburg, where former players and coaches gathered in 2019 for a reunion marking 50 years since he took over at the then-Orangeburg High School in 1969.

Sheridan’s three seasons in Orangeburg as head coach produced a 28-6-1 record, capped by the 13-0 Orangeburg-Wilkinson team that defeated Union for the 1971 state championship, which is still the program’s lone title in football. The 1970 team at OHS only lost one game, to Lower Richland.

As former Times and Democrat sports editor Bob Gillespie has noted, before the 1971 season — in a scenario reminiscent of the movie “Remember the Titans” — Orangeburg merged predominantly white OHS and predominantly black Wilkinson High. The Indians and Wolverines suddenly became one: the O-W Bruins.

Sheridan pic

Former Orangeburg-Wilkinson head football coach Dick Sheridan was inducted into the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame on Dec. 7, 2021. He is greeted by former Georgia head coach Vince Dooley.

Sheridan’s championship team was quarterbacked by Mike O’Cain (starter from 1969-71), who succeeded Sheridan as head coach at NC State in 1993.

South Carolina State University head coach Buddy Pough, a 1971 O-W graduate, also played for Sheridan.

Gillespie reacted to Sheridan’s death in a Facebook post:

2020 College Football Hall of Fame electee: Sheridan success began with title at O-W

“Very sad to learn this. Dick Sheridan led my high school (Orangeburg-Wilkinson) … and the players from his teams (including SC State coach Oliver ‘Buddy’ Pough) remained devoted to him for years after that 1971 title. He did great things at Furman and N.C. State afterward, and was basketball coach at Eau Claire High before another great, George Glymph. I got to know him best after he quit coaching due to health issues, and he was always forthright and direct, occasionally difficult but consistently true to his values. Overall, it was an honor to get to know him. I still cherish the O-W commemorative T-shirts he gave to all his former players — and one to me, even though my last HS season was the year before he arrived. Guys like Mike O’Cain, Johnny Dukes and others will bow their heads in remembrance today, and so do I.”

Mike O’Cain

Speaking to gopack.com, O’Cain said, “He was just a remarkable coach. He believed in his role as a strict disciplinarian and he was a perfectionist. We would practice a play 150 times a week.”

Sheridan didn’t abide cursing, rule-breaking or embarrassing the program, O’Cain said.

“He didn’t always win with the best players, but he always got the players that he thought would be successful in his system,” O’Cain said. “He always tried to do things the right way. He would never bend a rule, much less break it. He recruited by the book. He was a fine person and that is something all the folks who followed him took with them.

“To me, he was a football father-figure.”

Dick Sheridan dies 2023

Mike O’Cain, left, was quarterback on the 1971 O-W state championship football team. He went on to become a successful college coach, as did the O-W team’s coach, Dick Sheridan, center, and Buddy Pough, right, the coach today at S.C. State University. Pough graduated a year before the ’71 championship.

Buddy Pough

“It’s a sad day,” SC State head coach Pough said of Sheridan’s passing.

“He had been ill for a while, but the news caught me by surprise. He was a fine man, and probably one of the most influential (coaches) in Orangeburg and the state of South Carolina.”

Pough joked that even later in life he was unable to call Sheridan by his first name, but rather continued to call him “coach” until he passed away.

“He was a mentor to me not only as a player, but as a coach,” Pough said. “Everyone loved and respected him; he was a great one and will certainly be missed.”

From Furman to NC State

Quoting from gopack.com:

“From 1978-85, Sheridan led tiny Furman in Greenville, South Carolina, to eight Southern Conference Championships and an overall 69-23-1 record. He was named the 1985 NCAA Division I-AA National Coach of the Year.

“He drew the attention of several prominent programs, including two job offers from NC State athletics director Willis Casey in 1982 and ’85.

“Shortly after Furman beat NC State for the second time in three years, Sheridan accepted the head coaching position for a Wolfpack program that had posted three consecutive 3-8 seasons.

“Quiet, unassuming and private, Sheridan was the personality foil of Wolfpack men’s basketball coach and eventual athletics director Jim Valvano, who once said: ‘Coach Sheridan and his staff make Gomer Pyle look like he’s from Manhattan … but they know how to win.”

“Sheridan’s inaugural team beat both Clemson and his alma mater South Carolina, posted an 8-3-1 overall record and qualified for a spot in the New Peach Bowl in Atlanta. Postseason bids became the norm for the Wolfpack, which played in six bowls during his seven seasons.

“During Sheridan’s tenure, his teams finished second or tied for second three times in the ACC and third twice. Sheridan, however, resigned in the summer of 1993, citing health reasons. He retired to the Myrtle Beach area, where he owned several sporting goods stores and worked in real estate during a beach-buying-boom.

“He never coached again, but maintained close ties to his former high school and college players. He returned to Raleigh in 2020 to be honored for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.”

Orangeburg business

Sheridan’s Orangeburg connection also included four decades of ownership of SMS Sportsword, a sporting goods store.

The store was named after founders Sheridan, Melicue Metts and Richard Salley. Both Metts and Salley got out of the business over a decade ago, leaving Sheridan as the sole owner as the store closed in 2023.

“My father, Mr. Metts and Mr. Salley thank you for half a century of shopping here,” said Bobby Sheridan, son of Dick, in May.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story

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