As most of you know, or at least I assume you do, Clemson football began in 1896. The Tigers first game was played on October 31, 1896 in Greenville, S.C.
Clemson defeated Furman, 14-6 that afternoon. It was the first time many of the Clemson players had seen a full-sized football field. Charlie Gentry is credited with scoring the Tigers’ first touchdown.
Since that fall afternoon nearly 122 years ago, Clemson has become one of the top 20 programs in the history of college football. The Associated Press recently ranked Clemson’s football program No. 19 in its all-time poll.
The history of Clemson football is too rich and historic to put down in this place. However, I can give you some of the nuggets of what made most of you become avid Clemson Tiger fans.
Through the years, Clemson has owned rival South Carolina. The Tigers have a 69-42-4 record against the Gamecocks. The 69 wins represent the most against any team Clemson has played.
The two teams meet for the first time on November 12, 1896. The Gamecocks beat Clemson 12-6 in Columbia. Most of the first 57 meetings in the series were played on a Thursday every October in Columbia during the South Carolina State Fair. The game became known as Big Thursday.
The Tigers have currently won four straight over South Carolina and a win this year will mark the first time since 1940, Clemson has won five straight in the series. The Tigers own the longest win streak in the series with seven straight wins from 1934-’40.
John Heisman, for whom the famous trophy is named for, was hired to be Clemson’s head coach on December 8, 1899. Under his direction Clemson won its first championship in his first year and went 6-0 overall. He also led Clemson to conference championships in 1902 and 1903.
On October 16, 1931, Clemson suffered a surprising 6-0 loss against The Citadel in a game played in Florence, SC. After the game, coach Jess Neely, Captain Frank Jervey, and others met in a car outside the stadium to discuss ways Clemson could help its football program get back on track. The meeting got the ball rolling towards the establishment of the IPTAY – I Pay Ten A Year — Club.
The Tigers accepted a bid to play in the Cotton Bowl on December 8, 1939. It was Clemson’s first postseason bowl game appearance. Clemson did meet Cumberland in a postseason “Championship of the South” game in 1903, but it was not considered an established bowl.
Banks McFadden was named a first-team All-American by AP and a third-team selection by UPI on December 15, 1939. He was the first Clemson player honored by the AP. Later that year he was named the Nation’s Most Versatile Athlete for 1939. Earlier in the year he had led Clemson to the 1939 Southern Conference Championship in basketball, still the only postseason basketball championship in Clemson history.
On January 1, 1940, in Clemson’s first bowl appearance, the 12th-ranked Tigers defeated No. 11 Boston College, 6-3. Charlie Timmons scored the game’s lone touchdown from two yards out and rushed for 115 yards. Banks McFadden keyed the defense with four pass deflections and also averaged 43 yards per punt. Boston College drove to the Clemson eight with three minutes left, but Shad Bryant and McFadden knocked away third and fourth-down passes to save the day for the Tigers.
Led by head coach Fran Howard, the Tigers won the Gator Bowl by a 24-23 score over Missouri on January 1, 1949. Clemson closed the season with a perfect 11-0 record, the only team in college football with 11 wins that year and one of just three with a perfect record. Notre Dame and Michigan were both 9-0-0 that season, but did not play in a bowl game.
Clemson and Maryland are the reason why the Atlantic Coast Conference was formed in 1953. On November 27, 1951, Clemson accepted a bid to play in the 1952 Gator Bowl. This was done against the wishes of the Southern Conference, who had made a rule its members could not go to a bowl game. Clemson and Maryland, which both accepted bowl bids were given sanctions. The two teams were told they will not be allowed to play any other conference teams in 1952. This resulted in teams leaving the Southern Conference and forming the ACC.
On October 31, 1953, Clemson won its first ACC game in history, 18-0 over Wake Forest in a contest played at Clemson.
Clemson defeated Virginia 7-0 at Clemson to clinch the Tigers first ever ACC Championship on November 24, 1956. Since the ACC was formed Clemson has won more overall games (482) and more conference wins (283) than any other member.
The Tigers’ 17 ACC Championships are also the most in league history, as are their 23 overall conference Championships.
On December 29, 1978, Clemson defeated Ohio State 17-15 at the Gator Bowl in Danny Ford’s first game as head coach, and Woody Hayes’ final game at Ohio State. The winning touchdown was scored by freshman Cliff Austin. He would score another important touchdown three years later against Nebraska. Charlie Bauman made the key play with an interception of an Art Schlichter pass with just two minutes left. He ran the return out of bounds on the Ohio State sideline and was punched by Hayes.
Clemson was ranked No. 1 by AP, for the first time. Clemson moved to the No. 1 ranking on November 30, 1981 after Penn State whipped Pittsburgh and quarterback Dan Marino, 48-14.
On January 1, 1982, Clemson claimed it first National Championship with a 22-15 win over Nebraska in the 48th annual Orange Bowl Classic. One of the Clemson touchdowns was scored by Cliff Austin, who had been trapped in an elevator for two hours at the Clemson hotel earlier in the day.
Clemson is 7-1 all-time against teams named Ohio State, Nebraska and Oklahoma in bowl games.
Danny Ford resigned as head coach after 11 full seasons on January 18, 1990. He finished his career tied for first in ACC history in career victories with 96 and he was second in winning percentage. He had a 96-29-4 overall record and 76 percent winning mark. He was the third winningest active coach in the nation at the time of his resignation.
On December 3, 2011, Clemson won its first ACC Championship in 20 years thanks to a 38-10 victory over No. 5 Virginia Tech in Charlotte, N.C. The Hokies were ranked No. 3 in the Coaches Poll. Quarterback Tajh Boyd completed 20 of 29 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns on the way to being named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Clemson won its second national championship on Jan. 9, 2017 in Tampa, Fla. Deshaun Watson found Hunter Renfrow in the end zone for 2-yard touchdown with one second to play as the Tigers beat Alabama, 35-31, in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
Since Dabo Swinney took over as head coach at the midway point of the 2008 season, the Tigers have posted a 101-29 overall record. They have won six ACC Division titles in the last nine years. They own four ACC Championships and also played for the 2015 National Championship.
Starting in 2011, Clemson is 82-15, second best in the country. It has also produced seven straight 10-win seasons, three straight College Football Playoff berths (2015-’17) and three straight ACC Championships (2015-’17). It’s the best seven year stretch in Clemson history.
Hot off the press. ‘Back with a Vengeance’ is now available for online orders. TCI takes an in-depth look at the upcoming season as the Tigers march towards another national championship. Order your copy today!