This past weekend I traveled to Clemson, South Carolina and took in the Wake Forest vs. Clemson game. I had agreat time, and learned a lot about the history and traditions of Clemson football.
Many people think the “Death Valley” nickname is derived from the fact that there a cemetery located on the press box site of the stadium. Although that would make sense, that is not the case. Clemson Memorial Stadium received this moniker from the late Lonnie McMillian, a former coach at Presbyterian. He used to take his teams to play at Clemson, and they rarely scored, never mind gaining a victory. Before going up to play Clemson, he told sportswriters he was going to play Clemson up at Death Valley because his teams always got killed. It stuck somewhat, but when long-time Clemson coach Frank Howard start calling it that in the 1950’s, the term really caught on.
First Friday Parade
The Clemson football season kicks off each year with the annual First Friday Parade. This annual event takes place on the Friday afternoon prior to the first home football game. Floats from various fraternities, sororities and other campus organizations are represented in the parade that rolls down main street in Clemson. The parade culminates at the Amphitheater in the middle of campus where the first pep rally of the year takes place.
Clemson holds a classic homecoming every year. Displays by fraternities, sororities, and other student organizations that are months in the making, are built on Bowman Field the week prior to Homecoming Weekend. It is an event that draws alumni and friends of Clemson from all over the country.
The tradition of the Clemson team wearing orange pants is new according to tradition standards. The Tigers first wore an all-orange uniform for the final game of the 1980 season against South Carolina. Clemson upset the 14th ranked Gamecocks led by Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers, 27-6. The victory set the stage for Clemson’s National Championship run of 1981.
Overall, Clemson is 29-6 in Orange pants since that 1980 game, including a 16-1 record in games played during the month of November. The Tigers have won seven in a row in orange pants, including last year’s important victory over North Carolina. The Tigers have nine wins over opponents ranked in the top-20 when wearing Orange pants, including the 22-15 National Championship clinching victory over Nebraska in the 1982 Orange Bowl..
Running Down the Hill
This may be the most exciting 25 seconds (about 35 seconds when Clemson dresses 120 players for homecoming) in college football from a color and pageantry standpoint. After Clemson’s last warm-up the team retreats to the home dressing room located under the West Stands. About 10 minutes before kickoff, the team boards two buses and drives around the periphery of the stadium, through the crowd, to the east side of the field. After everyone is properly collected, the cannon sounds, Tiger Rag is played, and Clemson charges down the hill (exactly 100 feet top to bottom) and onto the field. It is one of the most celebrated entrances in sport. The Tigers have done it for every game since 1942, except for three seasons in the early 1970’s after Frank Howard retired and Hootie Ingram was the coach.
How in the world did the tradition of running down the hill start? There is no long involved explanation, it used to be the quickest way to get to the field. When the stadium was built in 1942 the football locker rooms were up the street in Fike Fieldhouse.
When the Clemson team gathers to Run Down the Hill the players rub Howard’s Rock because of the mystical powers it is supposed to give Clemson players. The rock is mounted on a pedestal at the top of the hill, and was given to Coach Frank Howard by a friend (S.C. Jones’ 19) who picked it up in Death Valley, California. The Rock was first placed on the pedestal at the top of the hill on September 24, 1966, a game Clemson won 40-35 over Virginia. The team started rubbing the rock for the first game of 1967, a 23-6 win over Wake Forest on September 23, 1967
I was greeted by a beautiful 80 degree day, so I wandered to the stadium, stopping by many tailgate parties. The fans here are stoked at the quick start by this years team and their are high hopes for a national title! The fans were excited for this homecoming match-up with ACC rival Wake Forest, as the Tigers were 3-0 and ranked No.3 in the nation pripr to the game. Quarterback Tajh Boyd wasted little time scoring, as he connected with Sammy Watkins on a 64-yard touchdown in the first minute of the game. Later in the quarter he hit D.J. Howard with a 75-yard pitch and catch, which was the 100th time he had been involved in a Tiger touchdown! Boyd finished with 311 yards passing and three TDs. He also added 69 yards and a rushing score, before yielding to backup QB Cole Stoudt the son of former Pittsburgh Steeler Cliff Stoudt. The Tigers exorcised the Demon Deacons 56-7.
I want to thank the many Clemson fans I met. Good luck on your quest to Pasadena!
- Clemson Students Wait In Line Over 164 Hours For Tickets To Game Against UGA (blacksportsonline.com)
- Clemson atmosphere a hurdle for UGA (espn.go.com)