Tiger traditions: The Clemson mascots
by HEATH MILLS
This article originally appeared in The Tiger on November 7, 2003 | PRINT

The Tiger paw and Clemson Tigers is emblazoned all over the Clemson area from the athletic facilities to the library and even the streets leading into town. The adoption of the Tiger mascot did not evolve until former school president Walter Merritt Riggs brought football, along with orange and purple colored jerseys from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now known as Auburn University) to Clemson College. Riggs, who was Clemson's first football coach, kept the Tiger name from his alma mater after deciding to use the school's old equipment to start Clemson's program.

The name became synonymous with the Clemson football team very quickly. One of the earliest slogans for the team was, "Eat 'em up Tigers!" But before 1954, no Tiger mascot was present at football games.

During that season, Gabby Hayes became the first student to don the suit. From that season on, the Tiger mascot has become a fan favorite in Death Valley, especially for younger fans. He has been seen fighting with opposing mascots, being passed through the stands by the crowd, mocking opponents by sitting in a lawn chair in their end zone and intimidating officials (the last two of which were made illegal by the NCAA due to the former Tiger mascots' antics.

The Tiger mascot was not the only one roaming the sidelines in 1954, though. Clemson also had a second mascot known as the Country Gentleman, who was a student dressed in a top-hat, purple tails and carrying a cane. The mascot evolved from a former Greenville News sports editor's nickname for the university. Though the mascot was popular and original, the Country Gentleman was dropped in 1972, which was about the same time playing "Dixie" and waving Confederate Flags was dropped at football games.

In 1978, the Tiger mascot began with a tradition that would soon be imitated across the South. Zack Mills, who Clemson legend Bob Bradley once called, "perhaps the most innovative and fun-loving Tiger of all," started the pushup tradition after Clemson scores. After each Clemson score at a football game, the Tiger mascot does pushups equal to the total score Clemson has in the game.

The pushups were originally done in the east endzone and the Clemson kicker would delay the kickoff until the pushups were done. Mills also was known to sit in a lounge chair in the end zone while opposing teams were driving in that direction. He pretended to watch a television in front of him and drink out of a oversized, inflatable Heineken bottle to taunt the opposing offense and excite the crowd. The NCAA ended the fun by banning mascots from entering the field of play during the course of the game after the 1978 season. The pushups have been performed on a board held up by the cheerleaders near the student section ever since.

The pushups are no small feat considering the Tiger suit weighs over 45 pounds (the head alone is 20 pounds) and the number of them done in a day can get extremely high. Due to the heat of the suit and the physical exertion, mascots have been known to lose 10 to 12 pounds on gameday. During the Wake Forest game in 1981, another famous Tiger mascot, Ricky Capps, had to do 465 pushups. The single season record is 1,549 by Dan Wangerin in 2000, who eclipsed Mills's record from the inaugural '78 season. All stats on Tiger pushups are tracked by the sports information department.

In 1993, the Tiger Cub joined the Tiger on the sidelines at football games. Both can be spotted at most Clemson sporting events, pep rallies, festivals and occasionally roaming the sidewalks of campus on "One Clemson" Fridays. This year's Tiger mascot and Tiger Cub are (Tiger) and (Cub).

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