Clemson Success Crowned with 1981 National Championship
An 1896 contest against Furman marked Clemson's first football effort, however it was the second game of
their inaugural season, against in-state foe South Carolina, that first pitted these heated rivals. South
Carolina won the first game, but Clemson has consistently roasted the Gamecocks since.
John Heisman, whose name adorns college football's top award, shared his coaching genius with Clemson
by leading the program to superpower status in the early 1900s. Despite Clemson, South Carolina's small
town stature, the university's on-the-field success has helped it loom large on college football maps. It's great
American bowling tour has included stops at venues such as the Sugar, Cotton, Orange, Gator, and Citrus
and Peach Bowls. Clemson's last trip to the Orange Bowl resulted in Danny Ford's squad posting a 22-15
victory over Nebraska and culminated the schools 1981 undefeated national championship drive.
Besides winning, Clemson possesses some of football's great traditions. Whether it's rubbing Howard's
Rock or running down the hill, few moments surpass the excitement generated at a Clemson game day.
Clemson University Nickname: Tigers
The roots of Clemson's nickname are said to have first sprouted at the turn of the 20th century. In those days
many of the football players wore long hair as a form of protection since there were no helmets. The long
manes might have led to the name lions, had it not been for the orange and purple striped jerseys and
stockings that the players donned. Because of these stripes, the natural nickname selection was "Tigers."
Another nickname theory focused on Clemson's first football coach, Walter Merrit Riggs. He arrived at the
helm after leaving the Auburn "Tiger" football team. By 1900, John Heisman's 1900 team was called the
Tigers and the team's motto, "Eat Em Up Clemson," was displayed on an insignia of a Tigers head. While
there are still some clouds of doubt about how the nickname surfaced, the Tiger name has shown brightly for
many great years at Clemson.
Clemson University Mascot: "The Tiger and "Tiger Cub"
The Clemson Tiger roared into action for the first time in 1954. The costumed character is one of the most
celebrated mascots in the country and is given credit for starting one of the most athletic mascot traditions.
This ritual has its ups and downs, but the Clemson Tiger performs the tradition of doing pushups after a
Clemson score with much joy. Zack Mills, the costumed "Clemson Tiger" started the scoring tribute in 1978.
The Tiger does pushups for each point that Clemson has scored. If the Tigers kick a field goal to raise their
score to 27 then the mascot knocks out 27 crowd-pleasing pushups. Once during Clemson's 1981 national
championship season, Tiger mascot Ricky Capps, executed 465 pushups while Danny Ford's squad rolled
up 82 points against Wake Forest.
Clemson Tigers Colors: Northwestern Purple and Burnt Orange
Clemson's official colors are Northwestern purple and burnt orange, but orange and white colors have
traditionally served as the dominant displayed school colors through the years on its athletic uniforms. The
Tigers have mixed and matched through the years and have had great success while wearing orange pants.
Clemson was wearing orange pants during their 1982 Orange Bowl victory over Nebraska, which clinched
the national championship. The orange bottoms first appeared in 1980 and the Tigers responded by wining
their first 10 games in that attire.
The Tigers became quite colorful in 1991 when they wore purple jerseys and white pants against North
Carolina State and California. The purple hue rekindled memories of old Clemson teams that once donned
pale purple and gold. Head coach Jess Neely's arrival in 1931 washed out those colors when he chose
deeper colors that better withstood rays of the sun and washing machines.
Clemson's Graveyard: Near the shadows of Death Valley
The Tigers celebrate road wins over top 25 opponents by paying their last respects in a graveyard at the
entrance of the Clemson practice fields. The cemetery is complete with headstones marking these landmark
wins. A 194821-14 road win over 19th ranked Wake Forest is the first memorialized game. The most popular
victim through the 1997 season was North Carolina. The Tar Heel's have four headstones in their honor.
The Friday night pep rally prior to homecoming at Clemson ranks among the nation's biggest. Each year
about 35,000 Tiger faithful arrive at Memorial stadium for a combination pep rally, beauty pageant, fireworks
show and skit presentation. The annual event was originated by former Clemson legend, Gator Farr, who
was responsible for many great pep rallies in the 1940s and the 1950s.
There's another pep rally held each year that tends to put Clemson fans in a Fowl mood.
It's call Barnyard Bum and takes place the Friday night before the South Carolina Gamecock game. A roaring
bon-fire is lit and the night's not complete until a chicken coop is torched outside the stadium.
Clemson's Memorial Stadium is often referred to by the term "Death Valley." Known as one of the top places
to watch college football, over 81,000 fans regularly pack the venue that has been unkind to visitors through
The stadium received its nickname because of comments that were made by Presbyterian College football
coach Lonnie McMillian. His out manned teams would rarely score and were certain to always lose to the
Tigers. Once he told a writer that he was going to play Clemson at Death Valley because his teams always
got killed. The stadium nickname surged in popularity in the 1950s when Tiger coach, Frank Howard began
using the name.
Thank goodness it was former coach Jess Neely that made a suggestion about stadium planning in 1939
instead of E.F.Hutton. The now departed financial group touted in their commercials, "When E.F Hutton talks,
people listen? Before Neely left the Clemson post for Rice that year he expressed these parting words. "Don't
ever let them talk you into building a big stadium," he said. "Put about 10,000 seats behind the YMCA that's all
you'll ever need."
Rubbing Howard's Rock
Running Down the Hill
This storied Clemson tradition of how the football team enters the stadium is described as the most exciting
25 seconds in college football. The homecoming version tends to last 35 seconds because Clemson
dresses 120 players.
The drama builds when the players complete their last warm-up and retreat to their dressing room. The
Tigers board two buses and drive around the stadium before getting off and forming at the stadium's east
side. When the cannon sounds and the band begins playing Tiger Rag, the frenzy begins.
Each player rubs Howard's Rock and then charges down the 100-foot hill and onto the field. Needless to say,
fan enthusiasm reaches peak levels early and opponents often fall quickly in "Death Valley." Tiger players
began running down the hill in 1942, long before Howard's Rock was set in Clemson stone. The tradition has
continued every year since except for a two and a half break in the early 1970s.
|Clemson University Nickname, Mascot &
Traditions, School Colors and more
"Run down the Hill with us!"
|Clemson Tigers football has a storied tradition that includes tremendous success on
the field in the form of national championships, a great mascot and some of the most
recognized gameday traditions in collegiate sports.
||Clemson Game Day Traditions, Running Down the Hill
|No Clemson game day
experience is complete
until the Tigers "run down
who debuted in 1993 as an emblematic symbol of the
Tiger Cub Club. Whether he's leading the football team
Another Clemson costumed mascot is "Tiger Cub," or
just hugging kids the smaller tiger manages to stir up
as much fun as the other tiger.
Before Tiger Cub joined his feline friend on the
sidelines, Clemson was also represented by the
Country Gentlemen. This mascot featured a student
dressed in purple tails and top hat, carrying a cane. He
cheered with the Clemson Tiger between 1954 and
No other rock known to man is said to have the mystical
powers of Howard's Rock. At least that's what the
Clemson faithful would have you believe. The celebrated
stone has served as a good luck charm for Tiger football
teams since players starting rubbing it during pregame
activities at Death Valley.
The rock rolled into Clemson traditions when a friend gave
Coach Howard a large stone that he had found in Death
Valley, CA. The gift that S.C. Jones, a 1919 Clemson
graduate, gave was mounted on a pedestal at the top of
the hill in the fall of 1966. The location was fitting since the
hill is where the team makes its grand entrance into the
stadium. Clemson players began rubbing the rock for the
first game of 1967, a 23-6 victory over Wake Forest.
|Get a Piece of the Rock
Since 1967, Rubbing Howard's Rock at home
football games has been a school tradition.
||Home of the Tigers
It's actually called Clemson's
Memorial Stadium, but it's
affectionately known as Death
Valley. This 80,000+ seat stadium is
one of the loudest and most
daunting venues in college football.
|Cheering for the Tigers
Gamedays in Death Valley receive extra spirit and sizzle
thanks to the university's Cheerleading and Rally Cat squads.
|Clemson's Cat on the Prowl...The Tiger
Clemson earned the
nation's top spot in 1981
|Facts About Clemson Athletics
- The university's famous Tiger Paw
logo was implemented in 1970. The
design came from the mold of a
Bengal Tiger at the St. Louis Zoo.
|The Clemson Tiger Marching Band
The Tiger Band has been representing the school