By Sam Blackman
It hadn’t been too many years ago when the Clemson-Georgia Tech football series was cancelled. From this sad ending a new and longstanding Tiger Tradition was born.
In 1977, the two ancient foes were to go their separate ways. Clemson wanted a home and home series with the Yellow Jackets. But the Georgia Tech administration would not hear of it. Even the two presidents of both schools got involved in the situation and common ground could not be reached.
Clemson played Georgia Tech in Atlanta every year the two schools met except for three games prior to the Yellow Jackets joining the Atlantic Coast Conference. In 1898, the first game in the series, the two teams played on Thanksgiving Day in Augusta, GA. In 1899, the two rivals met in Greenville, SC, also on Thanksgiving Day. The Tigers were victorious in those two games. In the first and only visit to Clemson prior to Georgia Tech joining the ACC, the Tigers defeated the Yellow Jackets 21-17 on September 28, 1974.
In the IPTAY Report dated on September 20, 1977, then IPTAY Executive Secretary George Bennett asked that the Tiger faithful making the trip to Atlanta use $2 dollar bills to show merchants at hotels and restaurants, etc. what an impact the Clemson nation had on the local economy. According to Bennett this was a good way to prove a point—Clemson fans do have an impact on a local economy. “We want to make a big impact on Atlanta this weekend. I would like to ask that every Clemson fan take as many two dollar bills as possible and use these rare bills for every expenditure.”
It’s really not known exactly how much impact the Clemson fans made on the economy in Atlanta that weekend in 1977, but anytime Tiger fans come to town, restaurants and hotels are full and local businesses not only love the color of green in their tills but all of the orange that fill their establishments.
Clemson defeated Georgia Tech in Atlanta 31-14, on September 24, 1977, in what was to be the last game in the series. The Tigers scored on its first three offensive possessions and built up a 24-7 halftime lead in front of 50,116 fans. The Tigers’ Lester Brown rushed for 134 yards on the afternoon.
On April 1, 1978, Georgia Tech joined the Atlantic Coast Conference and this forced the Yellow Jackets to play the Tigers on a home and home basis—the series was resumed without a long interruption in 1983.
The reason Clemson played at Georgia Tech for so many years and participated in the series was because of money. Long time Clemson Head Coach Frank Howard explained that it was a necessary to go to Atlanta every year. “A few years back we needed the money. Going to play in Atlanta with the large population and the big stadium, it was like going to a bowl game. It really paid dividends and helped us during the years,” said Howard.
To this day, Clemson fans will spend $2 dollar bills when making a road trip in the opponent’s territory to show that the Tigers are in town.
One For the Books
In 1945, the country was recovering from World War II, the troops were returning and many of them going back to college to resume their academic career that was interrupted by serving Uncle Sam in the armed forces.
In 1944 Clemson suffered its worst loss in the series to Georgia Tech, a 51-0 loss in Atlanta. But the 1945 season was to be different.
Coach Howard and Clemson kept things going on campus the best they could. Many schools dropped football, but Clemson managed to always field a team and because of this, Howard said that is why Clemson enjoyed success in the late 40s and 1950s.
“We kept the football team going, and we didn’t drop football like many schools did. And because of this, we were ahead and didn’t have to play catch up. I feel it helped the morale of the students at Clemson and those abroad. I would write the players serving our country and tell them about what’s happening at Clemson and plans for the team when they came back from service,” said Howard.
Prior to Clemson playing Georgia Tech on November 24, 1945, Yellow Jacket Head Coach Bobby Dodd, in his first year, announced that his second string would start against Clemson. He wanted to rest his first string players and have them ready for the Georgia game the following week.
“We saw what Dodd said in the newspaper,” said Howard. We also knew they didn’t scout us any that season. We knew we had a point to make.”
Clemson’s Butch Butler, who was on a 45-day leave from the Army, scored two touchdowns for Clemson before 20,000 people in Atlanta. Frank Howard said he asked the general for a 45-day leave for Butler because he had the days numbered that he needed him during the football season.
At the start of the game, Clemson proved they were for real and Georgia Tech’s first string soon got in the game. The Tigers, led by Butler, upset Georgia Tech, 21-7.
“I think my boys played a whale of a game against Tech,” said Howard following the game. “I think everyone will agree they were the class of the ball game from start to finish,” said Howard.
A feature of the game at halftime was the appearance of Clemson’s famous Senior Platoon. This drill team gained national prominence around the country and brought fame and prestige to Clemson.
The series with Georgia Tech is a very intriguing one and is filled with many colorful characters. It’s fortunate for fans that both teams are in the same conference and they continue to play each other year after year.
January 15, 2021