Caution: This one involves a rant, as I'll get all fired up rocking and rolling after the jump. After a poor effort by the local high school team last Friday, I remarked that I hadn't been so pissed since the Virginia debacle. A couple people (including Clemson fans) looked at me like I had three heads so, for everyone's interest, I'll get off topic today and relive one of the worst days in Clemson football history and try to tie it back into present relevance. I'll probably educate some people in the process. And for you young bucks, this was after Al Groh fell flat on his face at wake but well before he started "playing chess" in the ACC at UVa.
If you claim to be any sort of Clemson fan, losing to Virginia is unacceptable. That was something engrained growing up. Beating Virginia was just a tradition because Clemson just didn't lose to Virginia. Coach Ford understood that tradition. He'll tell you that he always put extra emphasis on the Wahoos. When he played at Bammer, they had a similar tradition against Vandy and I believe he was on the first Bama team to lose to Vanderbilt, which was quite an embarrassment for everybody. He refused to be the first Clemson coach to lose to the Cavaliers.
Then came Ken Hatfield. We all tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. He wasn't Coach Ford but, let's be realistic, there would never be another Coach Ford at Clemson-which is very unfortunate, but another topic for another day. Well, we were all behind Hatfield until his first ACC contest was completed. The program was a juggernaut at this time. Clemson probably had its finest team in school history back in 1990. The Tigers were absolutely stacked everywhere. Ole Kenny was essentially given the "keys to the Porsche and asked not to wreck it." Outsiders and many youngsters (the same idiots who claim Clemson was a "rogue" program until Coach Ford left) often ask why Hatfield was fired with such a good overall record at CU. Well, losing to the White Meat doesn't exactly get you a contract extension.
In addition to many later losses, he lost to Virginia right out of the chute. I would have fired his ass in the post-game press conference-then again, I wanted Tom Bowden fired immediately following the UGa debacle in '03. You don't lose to Virginia. Period. In the 29 previous meetings Clemson was 29-0. They got whipped in Clemson. They got whipped in Charlottesville. That is the way it was and anyone, especially an outsider filling Ford's spot, deserved to get absolutely hammered after dropping a game to this team. And, no, I don't give a shit that this was the best team in their school's history. Nor do I care that they were in the national title hunt for a short while.
If you ever ask me about the worst loss in the Hatfield era, there will be no pause or contemplation. Sure FSU putting 50+ on us was pitiful. Watching Steve Tanneyhill vandalize our field was pathetic and probably was the last straw. Getting your ass handed to you in the state of Florida by Cal was demoralizing as well. However, the worst experience among them all was losing to Virginia in 1990.
Again, you will probably point out that they were, at one point, the number 1 team in the land until tying Ga. Tech. I don't give a shit. It's still Virginia and we don't lose to UVa. I distinctly remember watching that contest. Clemson was ranked in the top 10 and the game was nationally televised on ESPN. I remember the fans tearing down the goalposts. I remember the jubilation on their students faces. I also remember the look of sheer stupidity on Hatfield's face. His only comment was that they would "work to correct some things." Shit on that, already ruined the dynasty Ford worked so hard to build. And, for you rookies who claim he was so great, all his wins were with Ford's players. You think this past season was tough? Try watching the '92 team play. They quit on Hatfield after a tough loss to Florida State. You want to know what the players thought of Hatfield, just ask James Trapp.
So, what does this have to do with 2011? We still have not recovered. Our fans revolted and Hatfield was fired in 1993 but nothing has really changed. The BOT is happy with mediocrity mainly because Clemson fans will not put them in their place and accept this crap year after year. We still sell tons of season tickets and donate at their muse. I am not sure how IPTAY has $30 million of your money in their coffers yet no infrastructure projects can get off the ground until you donate more money. IPTAY is nice and might match your donation, how convenient. The administration and the admissions board won't cut the coaching staff a break. They handcuff the whole athletics department and don't care. They are the whole reason a guy like Ken Hatfield replaced a legend in the first place. Had the fans not been so pissed about the dramatic drop off, Hatfield might still be the coach at CU. Tommy West was brought in to appease the fans. I like West and really like to hear what he says because he tells you the same stuff we tell you, only in more detail. West will tell you about how bad the university handicapped the program. His players did have their issues but the administration did him no favors. I complain that Tom used facilities as an excuse (and West certainly did not), but Clemson didn't do much of anything infrastructure-wise while West was there.
That Virginia loss was an on-the-field inflection point. We all wanted to believe that the program could carry on despite poor administrative decisions. We wanted to believe that a successful Air Force and Arkansas coach could come in and pick up right where his predecessor left off. Instead, we lost many traditions, including beating Virginia.