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Clemson Tigers Football History

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Death Valley

Name synonymous with Clemson Memorial Stadium. The Stadium was dubbed this affectionate title by 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 gained a victory. Once he told the writers he was going to play Clemson up at Death Valley because his teams Clemson Football historyalways got killed. It stuck somewhat, but when Frank Howard start calling it that in the fifties, the term really caught on. It is now in its 54th year.

Many people think the name is derived from the fact that there rests a cemetary outside the fence on the press box site of the stadium. But, although it would make sense, the name was first coined by Lonnie McMillian.

First Friday Parade

The Clemson football season kicks off each year with the annual First Friday Parade. The once a year event takes place on the Friday afternoon prior to the first home football game. Floats from various fraternities and 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.

The Grand Marshall of the Parade is featured at the Pep Rally. Recent Grand Marshall's have ranged from current PGA professional Dillard Pruitt, to College Football Hall of Fame legends Jess Neely and Frank Howard, to noted television announcers Brent Musburger and Ara Parseghian.


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 the Homecoming Weekend. It is an event that draws alumni and friends of Clemson from all over the country.

The Friday evening prior to the game, Tigerama is held in Death Valley, an event that attracts over 35,000 fans. The Homecoming Queen and her court are presented in addition to Homecoming skits, a pep rally and a large and loud fireworks display.

The first homecoming game played at Clemson took place on September 30, 1922 when Clemson met Centre. Clemson has a 56-19-3 record on Homecoming games over the years. The average margin of victory is 21 to 12. Clemson has been especially successful on Homecoming in recent years, posting a 26-3-2 record since 1971.

Orange Pants

The tradition of the Clemson team wearing orange pants is new according to tradition standards. The Tigers first wore the all orange uniform for the final game of the 1980 season against South Carolina. Clemson upset the 14th ranked Gamecocks and 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 ingames played in the month of November. The Tigers have won seven in a row in orange pants, including last year's important victory over North Carolina.

Clemson has nine wins over top 20 opponents when wearing Orange pants, including the 22-15 National Championship clinching win over Nebraska in the 1982 Orange Bowl.

Howard's Rock

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, CA.

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.

Running Down the Hill
One of 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 warmup the team retreats to the home dressing room located under the West Stands. At about 12:50 ( for normal 1:00 P.M. game), the team boards two buses and drives around the periphery of the stadium 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 1970, 1971 and four games of the 1972 season. In all, the Tigers have run down the hill 249 times heading into 1996.

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 players were finished getting dressed they used to walk out the front door and walk down the street to "The Hill". Coach Howard continued the tradition when locker rooms were finally built inside the stadium because Clemson fans used to get so fired up when they gathered at the top of the hill. That's when the buses came into use to spend the trip from the locker room to the other side of the stadium. 

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