Pageantry and tradition ooze from every angle around Memorial Stadium on Clemson football Saturdays. Orange and purple provide the color palette for the day as tailgating tents are popped in massive numbers. Located in the northwest tip of South Carolina, Clemson University has carved its own nook out of America and become highly regarded in the world of college football. Nicknamed Death Valley, Memorial Stadium lives up to the moniker. Tiger fans are a passionate bunch, and with Clemson’s resurgence into championship relevancy, this southern campus town has become a hotspot for college football fanatics.
The Tiger Walk drives gameday forward as the Clemson team is welcomed by throngs of orange-clad crazies. The Tiger Band leads a parade down the Avenue of Champions accentuated by the spirit of the Clemson cheerleaders and beloved mascot, The Tiger. The march continues into Death Valley as fans follow their lead into the stadium.
Likely the most recognizable tradition at Clemson involves their entrance to the stadium. Dubbed as “the most exciting 25 seconds in college football,” the Tiger team loads buses outside their locker room on the west side of Memorial Stadium and are transported to the east side. They deboard at the entrance which rests atop an iconic hill flooded with Clemson faithful saturated in anticipation. The crown jewel of “The Hill” is Howard’s Rock. As part of the team’s entrance, players rub the rock as they charge down the hill. Named after famed coach Frank Howard, this rock was brought in from Death Valley, California to Death Valley, South Carolina. The tradition caught fire in the 1960s, when coach Howard told his players upon entering the stadium, “If you’re going to give me 110 percent, you can rub that rock. If you’re not, keep your filthy hands off it.” This story has made Howard’s Rock a legendary component of Clemson gamedays, which electrifies the Memorial Stadium crowd for one of college football’s best entrances.
This cavernous structure jammed with blazing orange makes it a challenging venue for opponents to escape with a win. This is why Clemson’s home has been branded with the nickname Death Valley. Adding to the intimidating nature of this venue is the Tiger Rag fight song, which concludes with
“C-L-E-M-S-O-N” being screamed out in unison. It’s a unifying force that rattles though the air.
After a victory, players get together at midfield on the paw logo to sing the alma mater. Fans are encouraged to join in a spectacular tradition known as Gathering at the Paw. A sea of orange floods from the stands onto the turf to join the team and celebrate the win. Traditions like this are unique to college football because they engage the fan base with the team in a way that no other sport can. The entire gameday at Clemson is filled with unifying traditions that make it one of the most remarkable spots along the terrain of college football.