You voted and the results are in: Clemson University is the winner of our first annual The South's Best Tailgate competition! From August 15 to October 1, more than 510,000 votes were cast with Alabama clinching 3rd place and Ole Miss taking 2nd place. But there can only be one winner, and in 2012 the ultimate bragging rights belong to Clemson.
The Tigers initially made our pre-season list of Top 20 Tailgate Schools thanks to the tradition of culminating each mammoth pre-gaming celebration (80,000+ fans) with the "Running Down The Hill," a dramatic player stadium entrance where the team and coaches storm the grassy incline in the east end zone of the school's Memorial Stadium, better known as Death Valley.
In honor of Clemson's 1st place finish we're sharing our Top 5 Favorite Clemson Traditions:
1. Clemson rocks. During the aforementioned "Running Down The Hill" players and coaches rub Howard's Rock--brought from Death Valley, California, by legendary Clemson coach Frank Howard--for good luck. The rock, which is housed on a pedestal at the top of the stadium entrance, is so revered that ROTC members guard it during the 24 hours leading up to each game against heated in-state rival South Carolina.
2. Tailgating is more than a pre-game festivity. Veteran Clemson tailgaters may tell you the school's best tradition is that your ticket gets you in and out at halftime. Meaning the parking lot revelry doesn't have to end when the game begins. Plus, Clemson fans are known for continuing the tailgate after the game. Talk about endurance.
3. They have their own currency. Sort of. When Georgia Tech dropped Clemson from its schedule in the 1970s, fans boldly stamped two-dollar bills with Tiger Paws to symbolize the money Atlanta would be losing with the exit of Tiger fans. They may no longer be attempting to make a point to Georgia Tech, but two-dollar paw-stamped bills are still proudly used by fans when attending away games.
4. They're cheesy--in a good way. Believe it or not, Clemson cures its own gourmet blue cheese. The practice was originated by a dairy professor in the 1940s and continues today as part of the school's agriculture center. Could there be anything cooler than dipping obligatory tailgate wings into campus-made blue cheese dressing? Well, maybe. Clemson also produces student-made ice cream. Flavors such as caramel, french vanilla, and milk chocolate chip are whipped-up as part of the university's food science program.
5. You can't rag on their fight song. Fight songs may err on the hokey side, but Clemson's has street cred. It's an old jazz standard called the "Tiger Rag." The school currently has 15-different versions (typical for jazz, right?) of the tune they lovingly refer to as "The Song that Shook The Southland."
A big ole congratulations to Clemson for taking top honors in the inaugural The South's Best Tailgate. Do you hear a rumbling? That's just Clemson fans joining in a victorious round of "Tiger Rag."