By Will Vandervort
Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich had not spoken with head football coach Dabo Swinney in regards to the arrest of a suspect in the Howard’s Rock vandalism case, but he is sure the Tigers’ football coach, who is on vacation with his family this week, is aware of the situation.
Radakovich said during Friday’s Press Conference at the Hendrix Center at Clemson University, that he has sent Coach Swinney a few electronic communications to let him know Micah Rogers was arrested for the alleged incident on the night of June 2.
Radakovich says this is a good day for Clemson and its loyal fan base.
“It shows that the system works,” he said. “If you do a crime as such as this, there is great police work that will go out and make you pay.”
Radakovich was pleased with the swift nature in which the police acted in catching Mr. Rogers.
“On behalf of the athletic department and Coach Swinney, I would like to express our thanks to the Clemson University Police Department, SLED and the Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office for their swift action, which led to this arrest,” he said. “But, this is an ongoing investigation so information forthcoming will be very limited. We leave it in their good hands.”
And now Clemson can again turn its attention to the Georgia Bulldogs, while continuing one of college football grandest traditions. Longtime coach and athletic director Frank Howard was given the rock in the 1960’s by friend Samuel Columbus Jones, who retrieved it during a trip to Death Valley, Calif. Howard used it as a door stop in his office for several years, and it eventually landed in a closet collecting dust.
Legend has it that Howard decided to discard the rock while purging his office before the start of the 1966 football season. He handed it to IPTAY executive director Gene Willimon with the directive 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 had a brain storm and immediately came up with the idea of putting it on a pedestal overlooking the playing field where it still sits today, 47 years later.
Even though the players did not begin touching the rock for good luck until a year later, the rock must have brought the Tigers good fortune, or as Howard stated, “Mystical powers” in the win over Virginia.
The Tigers managed to win despite losing five fumbles and giving up 429 yards of total offense. It did not hurt the Tigers’ chances that running back Buddy Gore rushed for 117 yards in this game, and quarterback Jimmy Addison was 12 of 19 for 283 yards.
But with the help of Clemson fumbles, Virginia took a 35-18 lead with 3:06 left to go in the third quarter and all had seemed lost. Then Edgar McGee, Phil Rogers and Wayne Bell caught key passes to bring Clemson to a 35-33 deficit with about three minutes to play.
Faced with a third down-and-short on their own 25-yard line, the Tigers were driving for the go-ahead score.
“We called a pass play that had resulted in several earlier completions to our split end Wayne Bell,” recalled Addison. “Wayne found an open spot between the linebackers, and the Virginia cornerback came from his deep position to cover the open receiver.
“Jacky Jackson, who had run from his tailback position down the left sideline, made a beautiful catch behind that cornerback and outran the safety man to the end zone.”
That gave the Tigers a 40-35 advantage with 3:49 left and proved to be the winning touchdown.
“I remember this play distinctly,” said Addison. “I thought I had overthrown Jackson, but he put it in second gear and ran underneath the pass.”
It was a victory for the ages, and later on his weekly television show, Howard said the rock must have had mystical powers. Well, something was working. The Tigers did not lose a game at home that entire season and that got Howard to thinking, “Maybe I can use this to my advantage.”
So Howard started telling his players that his rock did have mystical powers and that he would allow them to touch his magical rock as long as they agreed to give him 110 percent on the football field that afternoon. If they did not, “Then keep your filthy hands off my rock!” he would say.
Since then, with the exception of 16 games from 1970-’73, Clemson players have touched Howard’s Rock for good luck prior to running down the Hill and into Death Valley on fall Saturday afternoons. It has become known as one of the game’s greatest traditions, a tradition ABC broadcaster Brent Musburger–then with CBS–called, “The most exciting 25 seconds in all of college football” prior to the Georgia game in 1985.
Musburger’s phrase stuck, and deservedly so.
“It shows the passion of the Clemson fan base,” Radakovich said. “Howard’s Rock is an important piece of history of Clemson University and Clemson football. It is also one of the great pieces of college football in general.
“Here at Clemson with our fans, Howard’s Rock means an awful lot. It’s how we start each one of our football games. Touching the Rock and running down the Hill is a moment in time where every one of the 80,000 people who come to Memorial Stadium look forward to each and every week. That’s why it is so important.”
The Clemson athletic director said the $5,000 reward the athletic department put up last week, “is for the rest and conviction so if it comes to that point, we will (honor it).”
Extra security measures have been put in place to protect the rock even more, but Radakovich would not say any more than that on that subject. He also said if the missing piece or pieces of the rock are recovered than they will look into seeing if they can attach them back or “if it is appropriate to do. It is too early to say,” he said.