Get the Athlon Sports Newsletter
The damage to Howard's Rock at Clemson was only the latest tarnishing of tradition
Clemson officials acknowledged this week that Howard’s Rock, the iconic touchstone Clemson players rub before running onto the field at home games, was damaged by vandals around June 2 or 3.
The perpetrators allegedly broke into the stadium, removed the glass casing and broke a piece of the rock, which has been a staple of Clemson games since 1966.
This is not the first time one of college football’s venerated traditions has been the victim of violence. When it comes to rivalries, fan mischief ranges from amusing — kidnapping mascots or easily repaired vandalism, for example — to disturbing and potentially damaging to cherished traditions for generations to come.
FOOTBALL RIVALRIES GONE BAD: ACTS OF VANDALISM, THEFT AND KIDNAPPING
Toomer’s Oaks Poisoned (2010)
In a saga that played out over the Paul Finebaum radio show in Birmingham, Ala., Crimson Tide fan Harvey Updyke called in under the pseudonym “Al from Dadeville” to reveal he had poisoned Auburn’s 130-year-old oak trees at Toomer’s Corner. For generations, fans rolled Toomer’s Corner after Auburn wins. The trees were removed in April, and Updyke was released from a six-month jail sentence earlier this month.
Kidnapping of Reveille VI (1993)
Reveille VI, then a 4-month-old puppy who had yet to serve her term as A&M’s mascot, was kidnapped before the Aggies’ Cotton Bowl appearance. A Texas student claimed responsibility for dognapping Reveille, the highest-ranking member of the Corps of Cadets. Shortly after, Reveille was safely recovered.
The Origin of the Victory Bell (1941)
When the UCLA-USC series resumed in 1941 after a hiatus, USC students masquerading as UCLA fans stole the Bruins’ Victory Bell, which rings after every UCLA point. UCLA students responded by by defacing USC’s Tommy Trojan statue. USC then vandalized UCLA’s field. By the time the Bruins hatched a plan to kidnap USC’s student body president, both parties agreed things had gone too far. USC eventually agreed to return the Victory Bell if it became the game trophy.
Birth of Bevo (1917)
Texas A&M and Texas resumed their series in 1915 after a brief hiatus with the Aggies winning 13-0. Texas came back to win 21-7 the following season and planned to parade its Longhorn steer through College Station before the 1917 game. The Aggies responded by sneaking into the steer’s pen and branding him with “13-0.” Drawing inspiration from a billboard for Bevo Beer, Texas students altered the 13-0 to read BEVO.
Theft of Testudo (1948)
At one point the Maryland-George Washington series was heated enough that GW fraternity members stole Maryland’s 400-pound bronze statute of Testudo the turtle. In the 1949 yearbook, George Washington published a poem “Travels of Testudo” about the statue’s gambling trip to Reno. A year earlier, before the national championship lacrosse match, Johns Hopkins students stole Testudo and buried him.
Arizona Politics Spill onto the Field (1958)
Before 1958, Arizona was the only university in the state -- at least until Proposition 200 would change Arizona State College to Arizona State University. Angry and prideful Arizona fans burned “No 200” into the field at Sun Devil Stadium weeks before the two teams faced each other at Arizona. Arizona State got the last laugh as Prop 200 passed and the Sun Devils defeated the Wildcats 47-0. (tip of the hat to Shane Dale)
Bill the Goat Stolen (2012)
How many college football pranks end at the Pentagon? Before last season’s Army-Navy game, Navy’s mascot Bill the Goat was stolen and left in front of the Pentagon. Army said it had no knowledge of the theft. Bill was returned safely.
SMU’s Long Game (1999)
Going beyond simple vandalism or kidnapping, the SMU band gets high marks for thinking outside the box. The band left rye grass seeds in the turf at Amon Carter Stadium, in its trademark "M" formation, to leave its mark. In 2007, SMU used weed killer to spell PONY on TCU’s field.
Green Raiders (2006)
Further proof that bitter rivalries span all levels: Middle Tennessee fans arrived at Floyd Stadium before a game against Tennessee Tech to find that their Blue Horseshoe statue had been painted green, only it hadn’t. Tennessee Tech fans snuck in during the night to paint it gold. Middle Tennessee hoped to change it back to blue, but the gold paint hadn’t dried, giving the statue its temporary green hue. (tip of the hat to J.R. Lind)