For many of us, Clemson was not a top-tier football program when orange got into our blood, but for all of us, Clemson was a tradition-rich place that screamed family and pageantry.
While Coach Swinney is right, “the fun is in the winning,” it’s largely tradition that binds generations of Clemson fans together. Those traditions, like stamping $2 bills and traveling en masse to College Station make being a Clemson fan especially fun. Some Clemson traditions that stand out to me include:
- Rubbing Howard’s Rock and Running Down the Hill
- Pre-Game Pageantry (Starting before the Tigers run down the hill, Clemson has a handful of traditions that truly add to the Americana and family-feel of a Clemson football game and then end with a hype video that leads nicely into the Tigers approaching the hill.)
- Military Appreciation Day (Clemson does an incredible job honoring our servicemen and women in the annual military appreciation day. The 2017 edition was the best yet.)
- Orange Bowl March and Tiger Rag (Whether you’re a staunch anti-woo hoo-er or not, spelling out C-L-E-M-S-O-N T-I-G-E-R...S to the fight song is simple yet great. Ending with the “Go Tigers! / Fight Like Hell Dammit and Win!” chant following scores is a bonus.)
- C-L-E-M in Cadence Count
- Clemson Alma Mater (Following a win or loss, doing the alma mater in the stands while the team does it on the field always feels special. Listen)
- Epic Tailgating (Almost all schools have tailgating, but Clemson was named #1 by Southern Living which highlights Clemson’s policy of letting folks out at halftime to continue the party and then return to the game.)
- Homecoming Floats (Pictures)
- First Friday Parade
- $2 Bill Tradition (When Georgia Tech dropped Clemson from its schedule in the 1970s, fans boldly stamped two-dollar bills with Tiger Paws to symbolize the money Atlanta would be losing with the exit of Tiger fans. They may no longer be attempting to make a point to Georgia Tech, but two-dollar paw-stamped bills are still proudly used by fans when attending away games.)
I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting (hit me with them in the comments), but you can quickly see why one might care about Clemson’s great traditions.
There’s an example often used in the marketing research industry to explain how degradation of products can be missed in testing. It goes like this... Imagine Hershey’s chocolate, in trying to reduce costs, cuts the quality of some of their ingredients. They test the new chocolate bars with consumers and nobody can tell the difference. Boom! They’ve saved millions in costs. They repeat this process every few years and nobody can ever tell the difference between the new (lower cost) bar and the previous candy bar, but eventually nobody finds their chocolate satisfying anymore. How did the tests miss it? The reason: it was never tested back to original formula! Each incremental downgrade seemed small at the time and compared to the version just before it.
Fortunately, we are very far from reaching that point. I’d argue they’re still among the best in the nation. My trip to Texas A&M - with their awesome fans and crazy yells - put into focus what we have and what we should work to protect and improve.
Over the past few years, here are some of the ways in which Clemson football traditions have lost some luster. These are not the “fault” of any one group. There is not necessarily blame to be cast for all of these, however they’re still worth highlighting.
- Loss of Key Tailgate Lots: This sounds minor, but the loss of several important tailgate lots means lower-level donors are banished to off-campus where they have to take a bus to campus and find someone else’s tailgate to join or head downtown. That means less tailgating and less time with friends.
- Howard’s Rock Chipped: What was a real scare, ended up not doing too much harm to the great tradition of Howard’s Rock, though there’s now a significant chunk missing.
- No more Student Ticket Camping: I wasn’t too upset to see this one go, as I hated camping out for tickets, however it has been blamed for the next item on the list.
- The Hill isn’t Packed Anymore: In 2017, there were quite a few games, most notably Wake Forest, where the Hill was looking sparse. This impacted the entrance more than the atmosphere, but nonetheless was a bummer. It was blamed on changes to the student ticket distribution and extra security checking student tickets and not allowing students to enter the hill in a timely manner. It looked better against Georgia Southern.
- Hill Entrance Missing Balloons: I’d like to sidestep the debate of whether or not it was the right thing to do for the purposes of this article. You can read about the science here. What’s much less of a debate is that the Hill Entrance is a bit boring and anti-climatic without any replacement.
All is not bad. On top of the team enjoying more success than ever before, there have been some great new traditions and additions over the past few years.
- Tiger Walk: This didn’t start until the Dabo era, but it already has the feel of an old time-y tradition.
- Fireworks: This is less of a tradition than an enhancement, but has added some flare to the proceedings.
- Purple Out: A newer tradition that started in 2013 has added to the already excellent annual Military Appreciation Day game each year. For just that one game, fans are asked to wear purple instead of the traditional orange. “Purple Out is intended to unite students and fans, pay tribute to Clemson’s history and show respect for the military and its association with the color purple as a symbol of sacrifice.” This initiative was started by students including Joey Maxwell and Hunter Bagnal.
With all that being said, here are some things Clemson could consider to further enhance their traditions and gameday experience:
- Upgrade the Cannon: A small cannon attacked to a hand truck fires to initiate players running down the hill. It also fires after scores. It’s dinky-looking and unreliable. There are large statues of cannons on Bowman Field. Let’s bring that history into the stadium. Here’s how a more impressive cannon looks at Kyle Field.
- Several Options to Re-Invigorate the Hill Entrance: Whether it’s adding fireworks (imagine sparks spewing from the Tiger atop the big screen), flames shooting upwards from machines on the field, or students on the hill using throw streamers, surely there are things that can be done to make it as exciting as it was.
- Bat Signal from Oculus: How is this not already a thing? Let’s shoot a Paw shaped light out of the oculus.
- Death/Valley Split Stadium Chant: Imagine you’re preparing to take the field in Death Valley to face the Tigers. Before kickoff you hear half the stadium yell “DEATH” and the other half follow with “VALLEY.” It reverberates for a moment and then repeats again and again. You know this place is about to live up to it’s reputation and it’s going to be a long day. What a way to remind the opposition what they’re up against and remind ourselves what we’re supposed to bring to the game.
- “We Will Rock You” (Queen) / “Eye of the Tiger” (Survivor) / “Death Valley” (Fallout Boy): These just seem like obvious songs that could become part of Clemson’s gameday in the same respect that “Enter Sandman” is a part of Virginia Tech and “Jump Around” is a part of Wisconsin.
Clemson has a lot to be proud of. Aside from the current success on the field, the rich heritage that is brought to life through our traditions is amazing. Here’s to protecting them and making them better than ever.
Leave your thoughts in comments below!