Clemson Memorial Stadium has been held in high esteem for many years. Whether it be players from the 1940s and 1950s, opposing players from the 1970s and 1980s, or even professional players in the 1990s, the ambiance of this special setting is what college football is all about. This year the storied edifice will add to its legend when the first
meeting of father and son head coaches (Bowden Bowl I) takes place before a sellout crowd of over 84,000 fans.
In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, various publications have named top 10 stadiums in college football and Clemson Memorial Stadium, affectionately known as "Death Valley," has been a common denominator on those lists.
The facility's mystique is derived from its many traditions, which date to its opening in 1942, the legendary games and players, and Clemson's corresponding rate of success. Clemson has won an even 200 games in the previous 57 years there (200-78-7) and has won over 70 percent of the contests. Twenty-eight times since 1983, crowds have exceeded 80,000.
The stadium has definitely been good to the Tigers who call it home, but the stadium was constructed against the advice of at least one Clemson coach. Just before head coach Jess Neely left for Rice University after the 1939 season, he gave Clemson a message. "Don't ever let them talk you into building a big stadium," he said. "Put about 10,000 seats behind the Y.M.C.A. That's all you'll ever need".
Instead of following Coach Neely's advice, however, Clemson officials decided to build the new stadium in a valley on the western part of campus. The place would take some clearing-there were many trees, but luckily there were no hedges.
The crews went to work: clearing, cutting, pouring, and forming. Finally, on September 19, 1942, Clemson Memorial Stadium opened with the Tiger football team thrashing Presbyterian College, 32-13. Those 20,000 seats installed for Opening Day would soon grow; and grow and grow. This year Clemson celebrates its 58th year in this outstanding facility. When the original part of the stadium was built in the early 40's, much of the work was done by scholarship athletes, including many football players. The first staking out of the stadium was done by two members of the football team, A.N. Cameron and Hugh Webb. Webb returned to Clemson years later to be an architecture professor, and Cameron went on to become a civil engineer in Louisiana.
The building of the stadium did not proceed without a few problems. One day during the clearing of the land, one young football player proudly announced that he was not allergic to poison oak. He then commenced to attack the poison oak with a swing blade, throwing the plants to and fro. The next day, however, the boy was swollen twice his size and had to be put
in the hospital.
There are many other stories about the stadium including one stating that Frank Howard put a chew of tobacco in each corner of the stadium as the concrete poured.
Howard says that the seeding of the grass caused a few problems. "About 40 people and I laid sod on the field," he says. "After three weeks, on July 15, we had only gotten halfway through.
"I told them that it had taken us three weeks to get that far, and I would give them three more week's pay for however long it took. I also told them we would have 50 gallons of ice cream when we got through. After that it took them three days to do the rest of the field. Then we sat down in the middle of the field and ate up that whole 50 gallons."
Howard says that on the day of the first game in the stadium,"the gates were hung at 1:00 pm and we played at 2:00 pm." But that would be all of the construction for a while. Then in 1958, 18,000 sideline seats were added and, in 1960, a total of 5,658 West end zone seats were added in response to increasing attendance. With the large end zone,"Green Grass" section, this expansion increased capacity to about 53,000.
Later, upper decks were added to each side of the stadium as crowds swelled-the first one in 1978 and the second in 1983. This increased capacity to over 80,000 which makes it one of the 10 largest on-campus stadiums in the country.
The effect spiraling inflation has had in this century can be dramatically seen in the differences in stadium construction. The original part of the stadium was built at a cost of $125,000 or at $6.25 a seat. The newest upper deck was finished in 1983 at a cost of $13.5 million, or $866 a seat.
Through the years, Memorial Stadium has become known as "Death Valley." It was tagged this by the late Presbyterian coach, Lonnie McMillan. After bringing his P.C.teams to Clemson for years and getting whipped, McMillan said the place was like Death Valley. A few years later
the name stuck.
On November 16, 1974 the playing surface was named Frank Howard Field for the legendary coach because of his long service and dedication to the University.
Luckily, the stadium wasn't built behind the Y.
Running Down the Hill What has been described as, "the most exciting 25 seconds in college football from a color and pageantry standpoint," actually started out as a matter-of-fact entrance, mainly because of necessity.
The first 20,000 seats in Clemson Memorial Stadium were built and ready for use before the 1942 season. Less than a year before Pearl Harbor was bombed and the United States was at war.
The shortest entry into the stadium was a walk down Williamson Road from Fike Field House's dressing rooms to a gate at the top of the hill behind the east end zone. There were no dressing facilities in the west end zone-only a big clock where the hands turned, and a scoreboard which was operated by hand.
The team would dress at Fike, walk down Williamson Road, come in the gate underneath where the big scoreboard now stands and jog down the hill for its warmup exercises. There was no fanfare, no cannon shot fired, no tiger paw flag, no Tiger Rag played...just the team making its entrance and lining up to do the side straddle hop.
That's pretty much the way things went for the next 25 years.
Either in 1964 or 1965, S.C. Jones, a member of the Clemson class of 1919, made a trip to California. He stopped at a spot in Death Valley, CA, and picked up this white flint rock. He presented it to Coach Frank Howard as being from Death Valley, CA, to Death Valley South Carolina.
The rock laid on the floor in Howard's office in Fike for a year or more. One day Howard was cleaning up his office and he told Gene Willimon, who was the executive secretary of IPTAY, to, "take this rock and throw it over the fence or out in the ditch...do something with it, but get it out of my office."
Willimon didn't think that was the way a rock should be treated. After all, it had been brought 3000 miles by a very sincere Tiger fan.
By the mid-sixties, Memorial Stadium was pretty well living up to its moniker, Death Valley because of the number of victories that had been recorded there. Actually, the name was first used by the late head coach Lonnie McMillian, head coach at Presbyterian College in Clinton in the 1940's.
McMillian and the other Blue Hose coaches before him used to open the season each year by coming to Clemson. Seldom scoring (24 shut outs in 39 games) and with only three wins and four ties to
show for it, his teams were getting killed by the Tigers regularly. In 1948 McMillian made the comment to the press that he was taking his team to play Clemson in Death Valley.
An occasional reference to Memorial stadium by that name could be heard for the next three or four years, but when Howard started calling it 'Death Valley' in the 1950's, the name took off like wildfire.
The Tigers celebrated the 50th season in the "valley"' in 1991.
But getting back to Howard's rock.
The rock was mounted on a pedestal at the top of the hill. It was unveiled September 24, 1966, on a day when Clemson played Virginia. The Tigers were down 18 points with 17 minutes to play and
came back to win (40-35) on a 65-yard pass play from Jimmy Addison to Jacky Jackson in the fourth period. That was quite a spectacular debut for that rock.
The team members started rubbing the rock prior to running down the hill September 23, 1967, a day when Clemson defeated Wake Forest,23-6. Prior to running down the hill that day, Howard told his
players: "If you're going to give me 110 percent, you can rub that rock. If you're not, keep your filthy hands off it." Howard told of the incident the next day on his Sunday television show and the story
became legend. When Hootie Ingram succeeded Howard as head coach prior to the 1970 season, Ingram decided that the team would make its final entrance on the field out of the dressing room in
the west end zone. In all home games in 1970 and 1971 and the first four of 1972 when the Tigers did not run down the hill, their record was 6-9. The team decided it wanted to come down the hill
once prior to the South Carolina game in 1972. The result, in a cold, freezing rain, was a 7-6 victory when Jimmy Williamson knocked down a two-point conversion attempt which preserved the win.
The Tigers have made the entrance for every home game since 1942, except for the seasons mentioned above - 243 times heading into the 1995 season.
After Clemson's final warm-up, the team goes back into its dressing room under the west stands for final game instructions. About 10 minutes before kickoff the team boards two buses rides around
behind the north stands to,the east end zone and debarks to the top of the hill behind Howard's Rock.
At the appointed time, the cannon booms and led by a high-flying tiger paw flag, the band forms two lines for the team to run between and strikes up 'Tiger Rag' and the frenzy starts in all sincerity...and
usually lasts two and a half to three hours.
Its a tradition that has inspired Clemson players for many years.
"When you get to the bottom, its like you're in a hole and all around you are nothing but Clemson fans. It's like the crowd is one big voice. You feel like little kings," said Tiger tailback Rodney Blunt.
David Treadwell, a 1987 All-American placekicker for Clemson said, "Clemson's record at home is not a coincidence. Running down the hill is a part of that record. You get so inspired, and so much of college football is about emotion. You get out of that bus and you hear the roar of the crowd and it gives you chills up and down your spine.
"Running down the hill is still talked about everywhere I go," said Jerry Butler, an All-American on the 1978 team who went on to a lengthy pro career with the Buffalo Bills. "Players who played against Clemson when I was in college always remember us rubbing that rock and thinking we would gain some type of spirit coming down that hill. The adrenaline rush was unbelievable for a Clemson player and it was quite a shock for the opponent."
Quotes about Death Valley
"Death Valley really lives up to its image. I was impressed with this stadium. When you put 80,000 people in there, it really feels like they are on top of you. I would hate to be Georgia Tech or whoever else comes in here."
--San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Steve Young
"Everything just seems like a hushed roar. Thats all you hear. You really cant hear anybody standing next to you. You just have to shake your head and pretend like you heard what they said. I think its just the mystique of Clemson and seeing the guys coming off the hilltop and the way the stadium is shaped."
--North Carolina All-American Marcus Jones
"There is no place louder or picturesque than Death Valley. There, where Clemson folks see magic in a hill and a rock, orange gets more respect than anywhere this side of Gainesville, FL."
--Terence Moore, Atlanta Constitution
"I remember being nervous before the game because there were 80,000 people dressed in orange. Its intimidating. I even threw up before the game. Its the only time I've ever done that."
--Former Duke Quarterback Dave Brown
"When Clemson players rub that rock and run down the hill, its the most exciting 25 seconds in college football. "
--Brent Musberger, ABC Sports
"I came here knowing it would be loud and that Clemson would hit me hard, but to me, the noise was the biggest factor. I know I didn't concentrate as well because of it."
--Herschel Walker after Clemson's 13-3 victory in 1981, his only regular season loss at Georgia.
"When you get to the bottom its like you're in a hole and all around you are nothing but Clemson fans. Its like the crowd is one big voice. You feel like little kings."
--Former Clemson running back Rodney Blunt
"Clemson's record at home is not a coincidence. Running down the hill is a part of that record. You get so inspired, and so much of college football is about emotion. You get out of that bus and youhear the roar of the crowd and it gives up chills up and down your spine."
--Former Clemson All-America kicker David Treadwell
"The rock has strange powers. When you rub it, and run down the hill, the adrenaline flows. It's the most emotional experience I've ever had."
--Five-time All-Pro and former Clemson All-American Michael Dean Perry
"Running down the hill is still talked about everywhere I go. Players who played against Clemson when I was in college remember us running the hill and thinking we would gain some type of spirit. The adrenaline rush was unbelievable for a Clemson player and quite a shock for the opponent."
--Former Clemson All-American Jerry Butler
Source: Clemson University Sports Information Office
THE ULTIMATE SPORTS ROAD TRIP
By: Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
September 30, 2006 - Lesson number one as you make your way down the rural highways and byways towards Clemson, South Carolina – the paw prints. That distinctive logo of the Clemson Tigers is painted everywhere on the road pavement, directing the path towards Death Valley.
Then there’s lesson number two – spotting the rubber chickens tied to car bumpers here and there, a derisive swipe towards their hated rivals, the South Carolina Gamecocks. If there’s one thing Clemson fan is VERY opinionated about, it’s USC and their Gamecocks.
Clemson and the Tigers have a football program steeped in excellence and tradition – they boast a national title, claimed in 1981, and a host of ACC league championships. Their stadium, Memorial Stadium, sits amidst a bucolic campus of rolling hills in the tiny town of Clemson. The venue was nicknamed “Death Valley” decades ago by a visiting coach from Presbyterian College whose team got thumped there on a regular basis.
The college pretty much IS the Town of Clemson, and College Avenue, just north of the stadium, is the place to hang our before and after the game. The tightly wound streets around College have plenty of restaurants, taverns, merchandise stores and other retail outlets. Tailgating is abundant across the campus, with plenty of parking lots (many free admission if you don’t mind the walk), intertwined among the campus buildings and halls..
The stadium itself was erected in the mid 40s, and was expanded on numerous occasions to bring capacity to just over 80,000. The most recent improvement added a 700 seat club deck to the west end zone. Despite the stadium’s age, the facility is sleek, modern and comfortable.. Concourses are sparkling, with brick and iron gate accents, modern concessions, Tiger orange and purple splashes of color, and a series of murals along the ceiling arches depicting great moments in Clemson football history.
The seating bowl sports a very steep upper deck, adding to the intimacy of the place. Across the north balcony is a ring of honor showcasing the best of the best, including WR Jerry Butler, who went on to a Pro Bowl NFL career with our Buffalo Bills for eight seasons in the 80s.
The most distinctive part of the show here at Clemson occurs at the east end zone, for here is “Howard’s Rock”, a rock placed on a pedestal back in the 60s by their legendary coach, Frank Howard. The rock is supposed to have mystical powers, and it is at this point where the hometown Tigers enter the stadium at the beginning of the game. At the appointed time, the cannons boom, the Clemson flag leads the rush and the players run down the hill from Howard’s Rock and onto the field. It is described as “the 25 most exciting seconds in college football.” Who are we to argue?
Game report – On this day, the Tigers were all over the hapless Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, 51-0. Three Clemson players rushed for over 100 yards, and two Bulldogs forays into the red zone were thwarted for no points.
Special thanks!!! Props go out to Clemson alum Steve Johnson and his brother Tim Johnson, both now living in Virginia and die-hard Clemson fans. Steve and Tim spent the day with us showing us the campus, we did dinner and drinks along the strip, and they generally showed us a great time. Thanks guys!
CLEMSON PLANNING FACILITY UPGRADES
January 20, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Clemson, S.C. - Clemson University has kicked off a capital fundraising campaign by rolling
out plans for $50 million in facility upgrades including projects on the back burner for nearly a decade, the Greenville News reported.
Funded exclusively through gifts and athletic revenue, they include a new football indoor practice facility.
In addition, the university and city of Clemson struck a partnership for a pedestrian bridge over State 93 near the entrance to the soccer stadium. Baseball, basketball, golf, soccer and tennis will also benefit from the latest wave of improvements.
Over the past decade, Clemson has invested $120 million in facilities. The final piece will be completion by kickoff of the 2011 football season of the West Zone project with the addition of its oculus at the main entrance and a four-story Clemson sports museum at a cost of $15.3 million.
"We've been very aggressive in building facilities," athletic director Terry Don Phillips told the News. "I believe it's important as we build these things people ought to know what we're doing."
Phillips said early indications are that the capital campaign - he Will to Lead chaired by donors Ed and Jane Duckworth of Atlanta - has been encouraging. Phillips said there is an urgency to complete all the projects "in a very reasonable time frame." He anticipated all the projects being completed in less than five years, the newspaper said.
Trustees are expected to approve the project this month and send it to the state level for approval before construction can begin. Swinney said that optimistically it could be operational by the start of the 2012 season.
Baseball's Doug Kingsmore Stadium, which added a privately funded covered left field bleacher in 2010, will have a major addition to the area down the first base line including a "Lobby of Legacy," players' lounge and dressing room, coaches' offices, study areas, meeting rooms, suite and club level seating, training, laundry and kitchen facilities at a cost of $5 million.
A practice annex at the southwest corner of Littlejohn Coliseum for basketball will be constructed along with an open-air pavilion at a cost of $5.1 million.
A championship plaza would be constructed at Riggs in conjunction with the overpass plans and a new stadium entrance with multi-purpose room under the grandstands, seating behind the goal and additional enclosed areas at a cost of $6.1 million.
Tennis would see the addition of two new indoor courts and enhancing the landscape and seating at a cost of $5.1 million.
The indoor football field would be at the site of the current practice fields featuring a regulation turf field, coach's tower and video platform. Estimated cost of the project is $10 million.