When Hootie Ingram succeeded Frank Howard as head football coach in 1970, he believed the program needed some changes to its image. So, he set up a meeting with sports information director Bob Bradley and other administrators.
One of the items on the agenda was the logo for athletics, which had been an image of a real Tiger for many years. The discussion went up the food chain and eventually reached the desk of University president R.C. Edwards.
Edwards was good friends with Clemson alumnus Jim Henderson, founder of Henderson Advertising in Greenville, so he asked him to come up with some ideas.
Henderson delegated the design of a new athletics logo to John Antonio, who had spent most of his career with the company working with corporations. He was part of the team that came up with the “Fly the Friendly Skies of United (Airlines)” campaign. Antonio contacted 32 different schools that had a tiger as their mascot. “All of them had some drawing or picture of a live tiger,” said Antonio. He wanted something that would make Clemson stand out.
One day, Antonio brainstormed a logo in the image of a tiger’s foot. He contacted the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and asked for a plaster-of-Paris cast of the imprint of a tiger’s paw. A print was made of the object, and while local legend holds that the tilt of the Paw is because of the 1 p.m. kickoff during that time, apparently the print came that way from the museum, simply because the angle is the natural turnout of a tiger.
In June 1970, Henderson invited Clemson officials, including Howard, who was still the athletic director, to a meeting in which they would unveil this unique logo. Antonio brought some tangible uses of the paw to the meeting, affixing it to blazers and schedule cards. He even included a mockup of Death Valley with the Tiger Paw at midfield and a similar picture on the floor of Littlejohn Coliseum. During the presentation, there was tension in the room; Howard basically showed no reaction.