A famous Clemson University symbol and tradition at the school has been defaced.
Howard’s Rock, the object Clemson’s football team touches before every game, was vandalized and damaged, according to authorities. The South Carolina university said the crime occurred June 2 or 3, when the assailants broke into Memorial Stadium.
The glass surrounding the rock was removed and a portion of the rock was broken off. The pedestal that holds the rock was not damaged.
“We take vandalism, especially of such an important part of our history, very seriously,” Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said in a statement. “Police are investigating.”
Howard’s Rock sits in Memorial Stadium on a hill from which Tiger players head into every game. The white flint rock was given to the school in 1966 by Clemson alum S.C. Jones, who brought it from Death Valley, Calif. It was named after former Tigers coach Frank Howard, who told his players in 1967 that if they gave their best effort in a game against Wake Forest, they would be able to rub the rock. The Tigers won that game 23-6.
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According to the police report filed by the school, “the Plexiglas cover was missing from Howard’s Rock and … a large piece of the rock was missing.”
The university employees that reported the crime told police they found several pieces of the rock and part of the lock for the case.
“It is very disappointing that someone would disrespect our tradition to this extent,” said Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney. “It is a unique tradition of college football, one of the iconic images of the game.”
“Thankfully, most of the Howard’s Rock is still intact and I know Clemson University will do what is necessary to protect it going forward.”
This is not the first time Howard’s Rock has been in harm’s way.
In 1992, someone tried to remove Howard’s Rock from its pedestal and broke a piece off of the left side of the stone.
In 2004, an opponent’s team manager attempt to vandalize the rock during his team’s walk through but he was stopped.
In college football, team rivalries run deep and sometimes people go to great lengths to show their devotion to their teams.
A week after South Carolina spring practice game in April, a Tiger Paw was painted on the field of South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium. The Tiger Paw is Clemson’s longtime logo.
Three years ago, Harvey Updyke intentionally poisoned Auburn’s Toomer Oaks, the trees on the campus of Auburn University that students rolled with toilet paper after wins, after Auburn’s SEC championship in 2010. Updyke served 76 days in prison and was released on Monday. Auburn is hoping to replace the trees, which were removed in April, in time for the 2014 season.
Police are still assessing the damage to the rock and estimating the cost of the damage.
Here is a video explaining the tradition of Howard’s Rock: