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Curry Kirkpatrick
October 23, 1989
You still might not be able to find it, but football and ol' Frank Howard have put Clemson on the map
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October 23, 1989


You still might not be able to find it, but football and ol' Frank Howard have put Clemson on the map

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The Life Is a Beach blowout was a mere bookend to the Esso's fall blast, Spittoono (name derived from Charleston, S.C.'s renowned arts festival, Spoleto), at which Clemson students match strength, wits and dexterity in tobacco spitting contests. The winner earns a gorgeous spittoon autographed, of course, by both Howard and Ford.

You might remember the Esso if you were watching the Clemson-Florida State game on television last fall. On that momentous occasion, a 1980 Buick was sledgehammered to death in the parking lot in front of the bar. The Esso has the oldest continuous beer license in South Carolina; it might be the only bar in any state with kudzu growing through the ceiling. The joint is a five-minute walk down the hill from Frank Howard Field. During halftime at home games there are six bartenders to handle the crush. Most of the Esso's clientele never get back up the hill for the final two quarters.

One weekend—nobody is sure which; weekends at the Esso tend to blur into oblivion—Brent Musburger and Pat Haden of CBS were photographed in the Esso wearing shirts that fairly screamed on the front: CONNOISSEURS OF MANURE. Musburger is a Northwestern guy, transplanted to Connecticut. Haden was a Rhodes Scholar at Southern Cal. Seldom has either fellow exhibited the slightest bit of red anywhere near his neck. Yet the Esso happens to be their favorite place on earth. And they don't even pay ten a year.

In 1977, IPTAY topped $1 million in annual donations (dues are now an inflationary 100 bucks per annum), and it has been the first collegiate athletic fund-raising organization to reach two, three, four and five million. Last year IPTAY's 22,000-plus members plowed in 5.3 mil, setting national records for both membership and revenues in a university sports booster club. Because of this, representatives from Ohio State, LSU, Baylor and Alabama (boiiiing!), among other schools, have made their way to Clemson to study its system.

TPTAY now publishes its own newspaper and boasts of several different levels of memberships, only the costlier of which will get you a prime space in the parking lot. Last year Tom Lynch, a pharmacist in Clemson, supplemented his annual gifts to the school by buying lifetime TPTAY memberships as Christmas presents for his three grown children. They cost him $60,000.

"I've got a friend whose job is to solicit money for the university," a Clemson English professor, Bill Koon, told the Chicago Sun-Times in 1977, when IPTAY' contributions totaled $1,071,628. "He says it's not difficult at all to get money. The problem is to get people to give it to something other than the athletic department."

More than a decade of academic enlightenment later, Clemson's various fund-raising drives for 1988 brought in $12.5 million for the school's academic programs, compared to IPTAY's $5.3 million—though it wasn't until 1984 that academic fund-raising finally surpassed IPTAY. While groundbreaking for a new state-of-the-art learning center for athletes is scheduled for next fall, not everybody is overjoyed with the new priorities.

"This is one of my unhappy moments at Clemson," Ford told several hundred boosters last May at the annual ball of the Greater Columbia (S.C.) Clemson Club. "They're going to spend 2� million on a learning center, and you could put all of that into an athletic dorm." ( Ford has been lobbying for several years to replace Mauldin Hall, the Tigers' athletic dormitory, which is 27 years old and was once a women's dorm.)

"I'm not trying to tell you what to do, but it's your money," Ford told the IPTAYers. "Like I tell people all over the state, you don't know how strong you could be at IPTAY, because they can't function without you. You should have a big voice in what happens at Clemson."

Back in the early 1930s, Neely figured the Tiger football program needed $10,000 a year to be competitive. The first season Clemson received that much, it went 9-1 and beat Boston College in the 1940 Cotton Bowl. Immediately thereafter, Neely left for Rice. When the athletics board met to choose a new coach and ol' Frank's name was presented, a gravelly voice from the back of the room thundered, "I second the nomination." Sure if it wasn't ol' Frank hisself.

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