Guide To A Clemson Weekend
By Scott Rhymer
Host of The Tiger Pregame Show on WCCP 104.9 FM
6:00-900 Saturday Morning
Here in Clemson, an offseason of angst has led to a squirmy two weeks of football to open the 2011 season. After two weeks of lackluster opponents, in comes Auburn, a team with the longest winning streak in the nation and the defending National Champions.
I really enjoyed my trip to Auburn last year, despite the outcome of the game. As most Clemson fans will say, we have a genuine appreciation for what we have at Clemson on a game weekend and we are eager to share that with visitors. I believe this to be even more the case in the post-Texas A&M era where Clemson fans try their best to treat visitors with the type of brotherhood as we were treated in Texas.
So this is a quick (certainly not all-inclusive) look at what I feel are “don’t miss” things about a Clemson weekend that Auburn fans can use as they come into Clemson this weekend. The hope of this blog is that Auburn fans can have a road map of the things to do in Clemson next weekend and that Clemson fans can have a reminder of some of the truly unique things that we have to offer and pass it on via multiple social network sites to put out the word to our visitors.
With the early kickoff on Saturday, many fans will make their way into Clemson on Friday. For those that will arrive early enough, a round of golf at the Walker Course is a must do. The comparisons of Auburn being similar to Clemson without the lake were a stretch (in my opinion), but Auburn fans can get a great view of Lake Hartwell on the back nine at the Walker Course, including the Tiger Paw Hole, #17.
Friday evening in Clemson is a mix of food and fun, depending on your age and depending on how late a night you want to make Friday considering the early start time of the game. My favorite restaurant in Clemson is Sardi’s Den, which is exactly where I will be on Friday night just like I am every Friday prior to a home football game. I am a bit picky with my ribs, so my endorsement of Sardi’s ribs should be taken with a close eye. Very few places in South Carolina do ribs as well as Sardi’s and a full-rack with fries is enough food for two people, although this one usually does it by himself! The rest of the food (I hear) is great at Sardi’s, although I would never know because of my love of the ribs and considering I never order anything else. The atmosphere is laid back in the true sense of the word…even down to the can beer instead of bottles.
My only other food recommendation in Clemson on Friday night is Calhoun Corners or Pixie and Bills. Both are outstanding and they have different menus and different atmospheres, so it best to check out their web site for more information.
With all restaurants in Clemson, I would highly encourage you to get a reservation.
If a watering hole is your idea of fun, it really comes down to two places that a visitor to Clemson does not want to miss. Tiger Town Tavern http://www.tigertowntavern.com/
is the place to be if you are going to be on College Avenue in the heart of downtown Clemson. There will be a smattering of older folks in TTT, especially before 10:00. After that, it will become Grand Central Station for Clemson students.
If the hustle and bustle of College Avenue and the college kids is not your cup of tea, I’d venture a mile or so down the road towards Death Valley to the World Famous Esso Club
You will be in the shadow of Death Valley and with a “more experienced” crowd at the Esso Club. This is Brent Musburger’s favorite place in Clemson, and they honor him on the walls at the bar area.
The first words of advice about a noon kickoff in Clemson is to arrive early. And when I say early, I mean 4 hours prior to the game kind of early. Traffic moving into Clemson for a noon kickoff can become a crawl once you hit the three hour window prior to the game. This is especially true on noon games with visiting teams that bring a lot of fans into the area, which Auburn will do Saturday. Auburn fan’s lack of knowledge with the driving routes into Clemson will add to the confusion and expected delays. If you don’t want your pregame festivities to be held in your car sitting in traffic, arrive to your parking area by 8:00 a.m. and then enjoy the rest of your tailgate in a parked spot. All parking lots open at 6:00 a.m. and, unlike Auburn, you cannot set your tent up the night before in a spot that you want!
I would be remiss not to mention our broadcast (Tiger Pregame Show) that will begin airing Saturday at 6:00 a.m. on WCCP 104.9 FM and www.wccpfm.com. We will break down the game and give our predictions during our show, which ends at 9:00 a.m. If you download (for free) the Tune In App for your Droid phone or IPad, you can stream WCCP 104.9 on your drive from Alabama. You should also be able to pick up the station on your radio around Commerce, Georgia.
In terms of parking, the first caution for visitors lucky enough to have a parking pass is to ensure that you know which route to take to get to the space. This information can be found on the parking pass itself, or at www.clemsontigers.com. Not all roads lead to certain parking areas in an effort to control the traffic flow. For those without parking passes, there are two options for parking depending on what you would prefer doing during the tailgate. You can use the below PDF file parking map for reference.
For those just looking to park and then walk the beautiful Clemson campus and/or hit the downtown restaurants and bars, I would encourage you to use the General Parking off of Cherry Road. For those that are going to set up a tailgate and remain at your spot until the game, I would recommend the YMCA General Parking Area (just off the PDF map above in the bottom right). The YMCA lot is just over the Highway 93 bridge and is located on Lake Hartwell. The YMCA lot offers plenty of grass to tailgate on as well as a view of the lake. Shuttle busses will route you to and from the stadium from the YMCA lot, but the walk is not that bad if you prefer. This is also where visitor Motor Homes can park.
After you park, if you decide to move in and around the campus and the IPTAY parking lots, you will find Clemson fans friendly and more than welcome to offer you a drink and/or food. In fact, you will have a hard time making your way through these lots without Clemson fans offering you to stop at their tailgate. For those that will not tailgate at their car, all of the College Avenue restaurants and bars will be open early, including the Esso Club near the stadium.
Our show (Tiger Pregame Show) and the Tiger Tailgate Show (which airs Saturday from 9:00-11:00) broadcast “Live from the lawn at Littlejohn”. This is the grass area between Death Valley and Littlejohn Coliseum (our basketball arena). If you are looking to soak in a game day atmosphere, this is the place to be during the radio broadcast. Hundreds of folks will congregate to hear the shows and to take part in cheers, etc. It will remind you of College Game Day on ESPN without the huge crowds. I should also mention that there are public restrooms open behind the radio broadcast areas (if you or your groups prefer to avoid a Port-O-Potty).
Tiger Walk (similar to what Auburn does on their game days) takes place in the West Endzone parking area (Lot 5 on map above). If you want to see the Clemson players and coaches walk into the stadium and welcome them with your War Eagle Chant, this is the place to be at 10:00.
At 11:00, the Clemson Tiger Band will prepare for their walk into the stadium beginning at the corner of Fort Hill Street and Calhoun Drive. For those of you parking at the Cherry Road area lot, this will mark a good point for you to come into the stadium by following Tiger Band down to Death Valley. The band walks down Fort Hill Street, around the Scroll Of Honor Memorial, under the North Stands overhang, and into the stadium in the West Endzone. The color and pageantry of Tiger Band and the playing of Tiger Rag will certainly get you fired up for the game.
In terms of when you should enter the stadium, I would encourage you to enter at least 45 minutes prior to kickoff. Clemson is in the process of a new ticket scanning system, and entry into Death Valley has been slow the first two weeks of this season. Considering this game is a sell out, it is safe to say it will be even slower Saturday. By arriving in the stadium early, you will avoid missing the pregame festivities and, of course, the Tigers running down the hill.
Pre Game-Inside Stadium
Assuming you arrive early enough to get your seats, the color and pageantry of a Clemson pregame is something that most say is an unforgettable experience. “The Most Exciting 25 Seconds In College Football” actually starts in the West Endzone about 10 minutes prior to kickoff as the team and coaches are loaded onto busses for the short trip around the north side of the stadium to around the east side of the stadium where The Hill is located. Clemson band will strike up “Orange Bowl March” before getting into formation. When the cannon sounds, Clemson will treat you to a truly unique experience that still leaves the hair on my neck standing even after all of these years. The spelling of C-L-E-M-S-O-N as the Tigers come down the hill is a must see for any serious college football fan. Have your cameras ready for this moment. Much like your pride in the War Eagle, this is something a visitor simply does not want to miss.
After The Game
If you have lower deck tickets for the game on Saturday, you can experience one of the unique Clemson experiences. Clemson allows fans, young and old, to go onto the field after the game. There is a 1 minute delay once the final tick of the clock has gone off. This is in place so coaches of both teams can shake hands and then exit the field quickly. You can enter the field either in the East Endzone (The Hill) or the West Endzone. Clemson players often hang around long enough for fans to get their autographs and/or pictures taken. Most of the time, opposing team’s players will also hang around and sign autographs as well (depending on the coaching staff of the opposing team).
The only guarantee I can give Saturday is that the Tigers will win! All of us in Clemson sure hope that it is the Clemson Tigers, but regardless you will find the atmosphere after the game as hospitable as before the game, regardless of the outcome. My advice is to sit tight after the game and don’t be in a hurry to get out of Clemson because there are no “quick” ways out of Clemson on a game day. Clemson fans will remain in parking lots until the sun sets, watching other football games and enjoying their time with friends and family.
I know I speak for all of Clemson Nation when I say…”Welcome To Clemson”. We hope to leave you with a great impression of our game day and we also hope that you leave with a loss!
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Go Tigers! (Clemson, that is).