We thought it might be a good opportunity to revisit the origins of the famous rock that gets rubbed as players head down the Hill for home football games.
“Put about 10,000 seats behind the YMCA. That’s all you’ll ever need.”
Those were the words of Coach Jess Neely as he left for Rice after the 1939 season. Fortunately, Clemson didn’t follow his advice.
In 1941, the S.C. General Assembly authorized the issuance of $100,000 in bonds to build a stadium. The project was a mid-1900s version of a Creative Inquiry project: Civil engineering students did the preliminary surveying, Professor H.E. “Pop” Glenn and Carl Lee, a 1908 engineering alumnus, provided the design and construction drawings, and players cleared the hill- sides. Coach Frank Howard and returning football players laid the sod in the summer of 1941. Legend has it that Howard put a plug of tobacco into each corner of the stadium as the concrete was poured.
When all was said and done, it seated about 20,000 fans in 26 rows. The University’s trustees named it Memorial Stadium, commemorating all of the alumni, faculty and staff who had died in service to the country.
The first game of the season in 1942 was against Presbyterian College, as it had been since 1930, and Clemson rolled over them 32-13. PC head coach Lonnie MacMillan is credited with providing the stadium its nickname in 1951 after being defeated 53-6.
“It’s like going into Death Valley,” he said.
The name stuck and gained even more traction with the addition of Howard’s Rock in 1966, presented to Coach Frank Howard by an alumnus after a trip to California’s Death Valley. It was at the 1967 game against Wake Forest when rubbing The Rock became a tradition. Legend has it that Coach Howard challenged the team by saying, “If you’re going to give me 110 percent, you can rub that rock. If you’re not, keep your filthy hands off it.”
Another 17,500 seats were added in 1958 (overseen by Professor Glenn), and in 1957, the first Tigerama was held. In 1960, dressing rooms, restrooms and additional concession stands were added along with 6,000 more seats.
Had the original plans for Hartwell Lake gone forward, Memorial Stadium would have been flooded up to the 26th row. Lengthy negotiations and the addition of dikes ensured the stadium’s survival.
More seats have been added over the years, with current capacity at more than 80,000. And just this summer, Yahoo Sports ranked Clemson as having the most exciting entrance in college football, referencing its designation by sportscaster Brent Musburger as “the most exciting 25 seconds in college football.”
An abandoned farm near Edgefield. An ancient bald cypress in Congaree National Park. A wildlife “enchantment” spot in Calhoun Falls State Park. Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. Clemson’s own Class of ’39 Caboose Garden in the S.C. Botanical Garden.
All are vivid places lodged in the minds of Clemson alumni writers.
They’re among an album of mental snapshots — places, people, history — in a collection by 36 S.C. writers on the places they love. The newly published State of the Heart is edited by author Aïda Rogers with foreword by novelist Pat Conroy.
Clemson wildlife ecology professor J. Drew Lanham ’88, M ’90, PhD ’97 revisits the Edgefield farm of his youth and its decaying beauty, the place where he learned to value and respect the sometimes harsh patterns of nature. He’s author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature published by Milkweed Editions.
Former S.C. Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist John Cely ’69, M ’80 describes his first encounter with the great bald cypress in the Congaree National Park and the park’s hardwood forest he’d thought existed only in history books. He’s a former land-protection director for the Congaree Land Trust and author of Cowassee Basin: the Green Heart of South Carolina.
Director of Erskine’s Quality Enhancement Program and writing center, Shane Bradley M ’07 remembers a no-frills camping trip with his four-year-old daughter in Calhoun Falls State Park, an experience that opened his eyes to nature’s enchantment and began a priceless family tradition. He’s author of Mourning Light and The Power and the Glory.
Award-winning novelist, poet, biographer and historian William Baldwin ’66, M ’68 recounts a project on the history of the great Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, a conflicted effort as significant for its failures as for its successes. Among his many works is Unpainted South, in collaboration with photographer Seldon B. Hill, a tribute to South Carolina’s rural past.
Former Clemson World editor Liz Newall ’70 revisits the S.C. Botanical Garden at Clemson, a living preserve illustrated by nature and cultivated by countless faithful gardeners — where each visitor finds a bit of his or her own personal history. She’s author of Why Sarah Ran Away with the Veterinarian and other fiction and nonfiction.
Clemson legends Frank Howard and Ben Robertson also make cameo appearances. State of the Heart is available through bookstores and online at www.sc.edu/uscpress.
Two trustees awarded Clemson’s highest honor
In March, Thomas B. McTeer Jr. and Joseph D. Swann were awarded the Thomas Green Clemson Medallion, the University’s highest public honor. The Clemson Medallion is awarded to those members of the Clemson Family whose dedication and service embody the spirit of the University’s founder. These two long-serving trustees who worked quietly and passionately have made immeasurable contributions to Clemson through leadership, teamwork and perseverance from classroom to career.
Thomas B. McTeer ’60
William Shakespeare said, “When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain,” and Thomas B. McTeer’s more than 35 years of service to Clemson as a man of few words but great action are a testament to this statement.
And to think this longtime Tiger fan almost became a Gamecock.
McTeer was set on playing Carolina football when Coach Frank Howard offered him a last-minute scholarship. He would go on to become one of the longest-serving members of Clemson’s Board of Trustees, his passion for teamwork and unity evoking a drive that would see the University through challenge and triumph, from integration to winning a national football championship and becoming a top-25 public university.
As an industrial management major, McTeer played football and ran track; was involved in student government, Tiger Brotherhood and Blue Key Honor Society; and served as vice president of the Central Dance Association and the senior class.
President of McTeer Real Estate since 1964, McTeer also has served on the Columbia Board of Realtors and the Columbia Zoning Board of Adjustment Appeals, and offers his skills and expertise to Clemson as a member of the Real Estate Foundation Board.
McTeer’s Clemson legacy has also continued through family ties. All three of his daughters are Clemson graduates as well as one of his grandchildren; two grandchildren are current students. An IPTAY and Clemson Fund donor, McTeer established the Sandra B. McTeer Memorial Scholarship Endowment in memory of his late wife. Chair of the board from 1981 to 1983, he was named Trustee Emeritus in 2012 after retiring from his tenure that began in 1976.
Joseph D. Swann ’63
When he took part in student government’s efforts to welcome Harvey Gantt to Clemson in 1963, Joseph D. Swann demonstrated the self-discipline and leadership skills he would later use to help guide the University to national and international acclaim.
A Clemson University trustee for 23 years and two-term vice chair of the board, Swann demonstrated a passion for service throughout his undergraduate career as a ceramic engineering major. He was involved with student government and Blue Key Honor Society and served as vice president of the junior and senior classes. He also lent his talents as a writer to the engineering magazine Slipstick and The Tiger student newspaper.
Swann began his career in the ceramics industry by working as a development engineer for the Ferro Corp. in Cleveland, Ohio. He went on to become the division materials manager and earned an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.
After taking a job with Reliance Electric in 1969, he moved his family back south, eventually settling in Greenville and becoming vice president and general manager of the company. He was named senior vice president in 1995 when Rockwell Automation acquired Reliance Electric, and he became president in 1998. Though he retired in 2007, he continued to serve as chair of the board of directors for integrated power services.
A recipient of the Clemson Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award in 1995, Swann has served as an IPTAY representative and is a past member of the Board of Visitors. All three of his children are Clemson graduates, and his family left a permanent mark on the University in 2003 when the Swann Fitness Center was dedicated after their generous donation.