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 Success Crowned with 1981 and 2016 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. Clemson struck championship gold again in 2016 with a stunning victory over top-ranked Alabama in the College Football Playoffs Championship Game. 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's Cat on the Prowl...The Tiger 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 1972.
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 years.
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
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.
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.