Howard's Rock. Just before the Tigers gather to run down the hill, they take turns rubbing a rock that supposedly grants mystical powers. The rock, mounted on a pedestal, was taken out of the real Death Valley in California and brought to Death Valley in Clemson by a friend of ol' Frank's.
?Orange Pants. These are reserved for special occasions and are as revolting to the eye as you might imagine. Since 1980 the Tigers are 14-2 wearing their big-game trousers, losing only last year's Florida State game, and, in '84, by a point, to their archrivals, the South Carolina Gamecocks—or, as the Clim-zin faithful know them, the Chickens. Nothing in this 94-year-old rivalry, by the way, has been deemed unseemly since Clemson's military students marched on the South Carolina campus before the 1902 game with their bayonets fixed.
On the eve of the 1987 Tigers-Gamecocks game, then South Carolina coach Joe Morrison was in a nasty court battle. He was being sued in a child-support case by a woman who had borne his daughter while he was married to someone else. A Clemson spokesman was asked how he thought the Tigers would do against Penn State in the Florida Citrus Bowl. "Before we worry about Joe Paterno," said the wag, "we got to worry about Paternity Joe." Last season, after Morrison died and his pallbearers included the Gamecocks' somewhat inconsistent quarterback Todd Ellis, the same fellow said, "Guess ol' Ellis had to let down ol Joe one more time."
?Crowd Noise. Joe Montana once said Clemson was the toughest place his Notre Dame team ever played. " Montana should call the signals in Italian," then Wake Forest coach Chuck Mills warned. "The Clemson kids' signals are so slow because of their drawls. They'll never catch up."
At least Montana's team won (21-17, in 1977). Mills's woeful Wake outfits were 0-3 in Death Valley. "It's my secret ambition to go down there and never snap the ball," Mills said. "They'd make us forfeit eventually, but I'd take a 1-0 loss, which would help our defensive average a lot." Clemson's following is so fanatical that in a road game, at North Carolina State in 1978, the referee stopped the clock because the supporters of the visiting Tigers were drowning out the Wolf-pack's offensive signals.
?Attendance. In 1987, when Clemson had eight home games, the Tigers drew 602,526 fans, more than all but two NFL franchises drew last season in their eight-game home stands. Clemson's attendance has ranked in the top 10 nationally for six straight years; last season the Tigers averaged 81,750 at home, fifth best in the land.
?Skyboxes. Clemson has more private suites in its stadium than any school in America. The 108 suites—the largest of which comes equipped with 22 theater seats, TV, stereo, kitchenette, maid service, meals and temperature controls—cost an average of $18,000 a year and raised $1.2 million in 1988.
?Spirit Blitz. Six years ago the Clemson student body released 363,729 balloons before the Maryland game to set a standard in the
Guinness Book of World Records. In 1986 Clemson students unveiled an 80-yard Tiger-paw flag. In '88, at Tigerama, the annual celebration the night before the homecoming game, more than 40,000 people turned out in Memorial Stadium for a combination pep rally, skit presentation and beauty pageant. This is more than the average home football attendance at most of the other schools in the ACC. Of course, with the likes of Clemson coeds Shawn Weatherly (Miss Universe, 1980) and Sheri Thrift (Miss America runner-up, 1985) setting precedents, what else would you do in Clemson on a weekend night?
The truth is, Clemson's isolation is partly responsible for the community's passionate adherence to old values, new heroes and those 100 yards of Bermuda grass over at Frank Howard Field. "Clemson's a make-your-own-fun kind of place," says Tiger defensive tackle Vance Hammond. "O.K., things are pretty dead around here most of the time, but what's amazing is how everything changes on a football weekend. I swear, a game here is like the state fair coming to your backyard six and seven and eight times a year."
Lynch, the pharmacist and three-time president of the Clemson Chamber of Commerce, recalls trying to interest fast-food chains in coming to the town. "In the 1960s I wanted a local franchise from Kentucky Fried Chicken and one from 7-Eleven," says Lynch. "They wouldn't even talk to me. In the '70s I tried Wendy's. Nothing. Nobody was interested. Now they're all here because football brought 'em." There were two movie theaters in Clemson until the Tigers' soccer coach, Ibrahim Ibrahim, bought one and turned it into another Tiger souvenir shop. (Ibrahim, by the way, aside from providing the football Tigers with two All-America placekickers, has coached his teams to two national titles.) These souvenir establishments are kept humming by the incessant craving for that Clemson badge of recognition, which was recently spotted as far away as Cape Cod: the fabulous Tiger paw.