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HTS 2019: C-L-E-M-S-OOOO[Hey Dabo What’s The Last Letter Again? Oh Wait I Got It]-N!

In which From the Rumble Seat’s second best history column takes a little spin to Auburn on a Lake.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 28 Georgia Tech at Clemson
I have never been more soaked than this football game - and I am a swimmer by trade.
Photo by David Yeazell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Greetings, jolly good fellows, and welcome back to From the Rumble Seat’s weekly look at the history of our opponent. Hopefully you learn a thing or two. Of course, there’s an extra side of irony considering this fall, I’m actually in a class called...HTS 2015...and what is it? Oh, why, of course, it’s History of Sports in America. Close enough. Well, with that being said, it’s time to look at one of the longest, most storied rivals in Georgia Tech history, and one that, frankly, Georgia Tech has historically dominated. Yeah, I know right?

Clemson Tigers

Opponent Background:

  • Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference (1953 - present)
  • Location: Clemson, South Carolina
  • All-time Record: 744 - 459 - 45 (.613)
  • Home Stadium: Clemson Memorial Stadium (Capacity: 81,500)
  • FBS National Championships: 3 Claimed (1981, 2016, 2018)
  • College Football Playoff Appearances: 4 (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
  • New Year’s Six Bowl Games: 18 — Sugar (2 - 1959, 2018), Cotton (2 - 1940, 2018), Fiesta (1 - 2016), Orange (6 - 1951, 1957, 1982, 2012, 2014*, 2015), Peach (8 - 1979, 1993, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2007, 2012)
  • Conference Championships: 24 — (SIAA: 1900, 1902, 1903, 1906 SoCon: 1940, 1948 ACC: 1956, 1958, 1959, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1978, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1991, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
  • Division Championships: 7 — (Atlantic: 2009, 2011, 2012*, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
  • 2018 Season Record: 15 - 0 (8 - 0 ACC)

Past Results:

  • Georgia Tech Head-to-Head Record: 51-31-2 (.607)
  • Recent Meetings:
  • 2018: 49 - 21 (Atlanta, GA)
  • 2017: 24 - 10 (Clemson, SC)
  • 2016: 26 - 7 (Atlanta, GA)
  • 2015: 43 - 24 (Clemson, SC)
  • 2014: 28 - 6 (Atlanta, GA)
  • Coach Head-to-Head Record: 0-0-0 (.000)
  • Tech record in this week’s venue: 6-14-0 (.300)

2019 Football Schedule:

2019 Football Schedule

Date Time (if known) Opponent Conference Historical Record Venue Result Notes Attendence
Date Time (if known) Opponent Conference Historical Record Venue Result Notes Attendence
August 29 8:00 p.m. (ACCN) @ Clemson (1) Atlantic Coast 51-32-2 Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC 14 - 52 L Rivalry 79,118
September 7 2:00 p.m. (ACCN) South Florida American Athletic 1-1-0 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA 14 - 10 W Group of Five, Whiteout 46,599
September 14 12:30 p.m. (ACCRSN) The Citadel SoCon 10-1-0 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA 24 - 27 L (OT) FCS 42,871
September 28 3:30 p.m. (CBSSN) @ Temple American Athletic 0-1-0 Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA 2 - 24 L First Meeting, Group of Five 31,094
October 5 4:00 p.m. (ACCN) North Carolina Atlantic Coast 30-22-3 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA 22 - 38 L Family Weekend, Hall of Fame Game 45,044
October 12 12:30 p.m. (ACCNX) @ Duke Atlantic Coast 51-35-1 Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC 23 - 41 L 21,741
October 19 12:00 p.m. (ACCN) @ Miami (FL) Atlantic Coast 13-12-0 Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL 28 - 21 W (OT) "54,106"
November 2 4:00 p.m. (ACCNX) Pittsburgh Atlantic Coast 5-9-0 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA 10 - 20 L Homecoming 41,219
November 9 12:30 p.m. (ACCNX) @ Virginia Atlantic Coast 21-20-1 Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VA 28 - 33 L 44,596
November 16 3:30 p.m. (ACCNX) Virginia Tech Atlantic Coast 7-10-0 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA 0 - 45 L Rivalry, Heroes Day 43,263
November 21 8:00 p.m. (ESPN) NC State Atlantic Coast 19-10-0 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA 28 - 26 W 38,198
November 30 12:00 p.m. (ABC) Georgia Southeastern 44-68-5 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA 0 - 0 TBD Rivalry, Senior Day, Toy Drive
2019 Football Schedule Jake Grant

Why’d They Give Me A Good One Right Away?

Clemson played their first game in 1896. The game was brought to South Carolina by Walter Riggs from Auburn University. In their very first season, they defeated Georgia Tech 23-0 in Augusta, Georgia. The Clemson boys followed it up with a 41-5 pounding in Greenville, South Carolina the next year. Tech, who was in and out of football-related existence, let alone ability to retain even semi-competent coaching, took a few years off from playing them after that. During that break, a similar man made a similar trip and ventured over to Auburn on a lake. His name was John Heisman. With him, cribbed a few items from the Auburn coaching arsenal, among them his propensity for unnecessary and mildly pretentious eloquence, the nickname “Tigers,” and some old, worn out uniforms. Ever wonder where Clemson got that garish combination of purple and orange from? Well, the garments their new coach packed up with him had faded from burnt otange and navy to lighter orange and purple. His cheap ways would follow him to Atlanta, too, but, in the meantime, he was a pretty good coach for the Tigers, winning three conference championships in a few short years, before he was stolen away by some upstarts with a subpar football program over in Atlanta now known as the Georgia Institute of Technology. Legend has it they offered a slight raise and 30% of the gate at what would later become Grant Field.

For related reasons, it would be until 1974, three quarters of a century and more than three dozen matchups, before Tech would again play Clemson in the state of South Carolina. In the meantime, Clemson receded back into the depths for almost four decades before hiring a man named Frank Howard. His predecessor told him to throw up a 10,000 seat stadium behind the YMCA and call it a day. Needless to say, Howard promptly ignored that advice and began laying the groundwork for the stadium Clemson now calls home. The old stadium, which was roughly 10,000 seats, now serves as the home of Clemson soccer and seats 6,500. His rock now stands at the top of the hill in Clemson Memorial Stadium, which should tell a thing or two about how successful he was in Clemson. The rock, sourced from Death Valley, California, by a Clemson alum, originally sat mouldering in the corner of his office. Memorial Stadium had, by then, been known as Death Valley thanks to the cemetery that overlooked the stadium on a hill now home to the upper deck, and popularized by a former Presbyterian coach that referenced having to play in the “Valley of Death” where his team was often shut out. When Howard wanted to get rid of it, the head of IPTAY, instead of chucking it in a ditch, as suggested, mounted it on a pedestal overlooking the stadium. Said rock is now considered so powerful that, long after Clemson players stopped running down to the stadium from their old locker rooms in the Fike Field House, they charter coach buses to drive from their locker rooms to the top of said hill so they can touch the rock and run onto the field.

After Howard left, they spent another decade in the wilderness until Danny Ford came along. Though he peaked early in his tenure, that peak was their first ever national championship, as good of a factoid as any for the Tigers. Two years after that championship, Tech would be well ensconced into the ACC and playing the Tigers annually from there until, well, maybe forever. The end of his tenure saw much controversy, leading to his team being placed on probation and his ultimate severance of association with the Clemson Tigers, though he was massively popular and his teams did see success.

Clemson went through a few more coaches before hiring Tommy Bowden, son of legendary Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. This decade saw a lot of peak “Clemsoning,” a popular adage for disappointing fans in just about every way. Tech took advantage of this a few notable times. Calvin Johnson shredded the Tigers in one of his greatest games in a Tech uniform - a game that, to be honest, probably deserves an SB Nation Rewinder video on it. Son of a gun, indeed. Once Bowden resigned after yet another year of disappointing his fanbase, his assistant Dabo Swinney was promoted to head coach. Though they took home just one title in their first four tries, they’ve been on a roll ever since, winning three straight conference titles and securing their second national championship in 2016. Last year, I added that Swinney turned them into the perennial powerhouse it always seemed they had the potential of being. That’s not necessarily true. In the days of Alexander and Dodd, Clemson was essentially nobody. The later iterations of the halcyon SoCon years were just playing second-fiddle to the SEC, and even the early days of the Atlantic Coast Conference weren’t really anything special. It took concerted effort to hoist them to permanently ensconce them on the national stage. For that, they have Ford to thank. Oh, for the implicit joys of Clemsoning, despite the letdown. Oh, and, for good measure, they added another championship last year, which I’m sure you remember.

As far as Tech football history goes, From the Rumble Seat has been taking a look at football history since May 2018 over at Rearview Mirror. The short version is that Tech football began ignominiously with a middling season in 1892. A game up in Athens in 1893, which Tech won, set the stage for one of the fiercest rivalries in the sport and also is one of the mythic origins of the Ramblin’ Wreck nickname, as well as how Tech got its colors. Tech was pitiful, to put it nicely, for quite some time until one man, Frank Turner, started an initiative to hire a bonafide legend as a football coach. That resulted in John Heisman. Heisman, innovator and champion, saw much success on the Flats until he dramatically left town as part of his divorce. The old man was replaced by William Alexander, who was known for his team’s strong academics and his own 1928 national championship.

Coach Alex was, in turn, replaced by his own protegé, Bobby Dodd. By the end of Dodd’s tenure, Tech had amassed three national championships, twelve conference championships, including five in the Southeastern Conference, which just mean more. What’s more, Dodd and Institute president Edwin Harrison had decided to go independent to make a stand not only for football principles, but its intrinsic academic ideals as well. Dodd and Tech would not sacrifice student-athlete education and well-being. The independent years were lean for Tech and did not result in the dream of a “Notre Dame of the South” status.

Eventually, Tech joined the Atlantic Coast Conference. By the end of the decade, coach Bobby Ross brought the Jackets from the utter depths of football irrelevance to win a national championship, Tech’s fourth. It is hard to overstate just how terrible Tech was at its nadir. Since then, the Jackets have seen average-to-great years, the most recent excellent year being 2014, when Tech was a few plays from the inaugural College Football Playoff. The Jackets have an all-time record of 735-502-43.

Tech and Clemson have a long, storied history dating back to the third season of Clemson football. The Tigers dominated the early days of the rivalry, taking four games in a row to open the series between the two. The greatest margin of victory in the 84 games played between the two was the 73-0 shellacking of Tech in 1903 by Heisman. Tech’s first win came in the sixth game, Heisman’s second year at the helm of his new school in Atlanta. It would be years between matchups away from Tech’s home stadium, as the Tigers visited Atlanta every time between the 1899 matchup in Greenville and the 1974 matchup in Clemson. This is a testament to the savage negotiation of John Heisman, his strong incentive to bring teams to Atlanta to not only line his own pockets but the pockets of his athletic department as well, the strength of Tech football at the time, and the extreme ease of getting to Atlanta compared to basically anywhere else in the South at the time. Infrastructure as we know it - and that we take for granted - was essentially nonexistent. Canals, trains, and dirt roads were basically it. Every train in 100 miles, though, passed through Atlanta’s iron triangle.

In the subsequent decades, there were four long stretches without matchups between the two, with the longest being ten seasons in the Roaring Twenties. The Tigers would eventually overtake every other team besides Auburn and the school in Athens on Tech’s most played opponents list, due to the long stretches Tech has spent in each of the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast Conferences. Tech dominated the second phase of the rivalry, racking up wins all the way until 1976. The final game between the end of the Independent era for Tech and its entry to the ACC was in 1977. Not only did Clemson win that game, but they also attempted to prove their economic impact on the city of Atlanta in order to keep the rivalry going. Ironically, it didn’t really work, since Tech cleared the Tigers from their schedule until they were full ACC members. This was partially to clear commitments made while independent - can’t play Auburn and Tennessee forever, sadly.

Since Tech joined the ACC in the early 80s, Clemson has seen more success. In the Paul Johnson/Dabo Swinney eras, Tech has yielded slightly more games than Clemson, though the Jackets won the conference championship in their only head-to-head matchup for the crown. No matter what the NCAA tells you, that game in Tampa happened. Georgia Tech is the 2009 ACC Champion. Tech has not won in Clemson since 2008, Paul Johnson’s first season as head coach, and are winless in the last four tries in the series, both sites included.

That is where we stand today - two programs which seem very different, just as they did in 1902 and in 1920. The beauty of rivalries is that every fan cares. The games matter, perhaps a little more than usual. This is everything we love about college athletics, condensed into one single game. And we get it to start the season. Especially after the long, cold winter and longer, hotter summer, we are finally back to college football. Nothing stays the same forever. I first wrote that line last year, but it’s even more true this year. At this time last year, who even knew half of what we do now? The option is gone, as is its iconic curmudgeon mastermind. I will miss Paul Johnson. He was, at the end of the day a Great Tech Man. And that’s what counts the most.

It’s been eight months of Geoff Collins talking and tweeting, but now it’s time to inaugurate what is hopefully a long and prosperous era for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. And defeating the best college football team on the planet tonight would be yet another twist in this long, storied, proud rivalry. Though Tech may not play Auburn annually, or historic rivals Tulane, Alabama, and Tennessee for that matter, we do get Clemson. Whether it’s stamping two dollar bills with Tiger paws, welcoming us into the ACC, or friendly neighborhood tailgaters, our story with Clemson is not a rivalry of hate. I genuinely believe the boys in orange and purple are a bunch of good-hearted, upstate South Carolina people. It’s a game of respect. And though that may not get peoples’ blood boiling like a little hate, it does show what good things these teams have accomplished by playing one another over the years. In different eras, we legitimized one another. Tech could not have won the 1990 national championship in the insecure doldrums of independence. We likely wouldn’t have a team, though, without Heisman. We found a home with our old frenemies, the Clemson Tigers, and built a new life in the ACC. And with all the intrigue that has happened over the years, from poaching coaches and spoiling seasons to iconic comebacks and statement wins, there’s no telling what happen tonight. It’s time to see what the day may bring. And, for those of you joining me in making the trip from the the booming metropolis that is America’s Capital of College Football, you may have a front row view to something historic, but you almost certainly will have a pleasant time in what could very well be America’s best college town. Did I mention they have a lake?

Tonight, the Jackets face off against the Tigers (51-31-2 all time) in the season opener in Clemson Memorial Stadium, colloquially known as Death Valley, at 8:00 pm. The game will be the inaugural game on the Worldwide Leader in [Atlantic Coast Conference] Sports and can be heard over the radio in the usual suspects, 680 AM / 93.7 FM, and the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Radio Network, featuring the voice of the Yellow Jackets, Andy Demetra, as always.

Go Jackets!