The long road to Clemson’s second national championship

35 Years Later


Jan. 1, 1982: Clemson defeats Nebraska in the 1982 Orange Bowl to claim the program’s first national title.

1982 season: Clemson wins the ACC title.

Nov. 23, 1982: Clemson is found guilty of recruiting violations under Charley Pell and Danny Ford. The team receives a bowl ban for the 1982 and 1983 seasons, is barred from national broadcast in 1983 and 1984 and loses 20 scholarships.

1983: The north upper deck is finished at Clemson Memorial Stadium (“Death Valley”), bringing attendance to 81,000.

April 30, 1985: Defensive tackle William “The Refrigerator” Perry is drafted No. 22 overall by the Chicago Bears.

1986–1988: Clemson wins three consecutive ACC titles with Rodney Williams at quarterback.

April 24, 1988: Defensive tackle Michael Dean Perry is drafted No. 50 overall by the Cleveland Browns.

Jan. 18, 1990: Ford resigns following conflicts with the administration.

Jan. 21, 1990: Clemson hires former Arkansas head coach Ken Hatfield.

1991 season: Clemson wins the ACC title.

April 26, 1992: Defensive tackle Chester McGlockton is drafted No. 16 overall by the Los Angeles Raiders.

Nov. 25, 1993: Hatfield resigns, having never been embraced by Clemson fans. The more Ford-esque Tommy West becomes head coach.

April 20, 1996: Defensive back Brian Dawkins is drafted No. 61 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles.

April 19, 1997: Defensive end Trevor Pryce is drafted No. 28 overall by the Denver Broncos.

Nov. 18, 1998: West is fired after a 2-8 start — the team’s worst season in 23 years.

Dec. 4, 1998: Clemson hires former Tulane University head coach Tommy Bowden.

Nov. 18, 2000: “The Catch II” helps push Clemson to victory over South Carolina.

2003 season: Dabo Swinney is hired as wide receivers coach.

2004–2009: The WestZone project in Death Valley begins; the project includes new luxury and club seating, renovated locker rooms and relocated program offices.

Nov. 20, 2004: The infamous fourth-quarter brawl against South Carolina results in both teams forfeiting bowl eligibility and issuing player suspensions.

2005 season: The ACC establishes the ACC Championship Game to determine the conference winner.

2006 season: Running back tandem James Davis and C. J. Spiller are dubbed “Thunder & Lightning.”

Oct. 21, 2006: ESPN’s College Gameday broadcasts from Clemson for the first time.

April 28, 2007: Defensive end Gaines Adams is selected No. 4 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Oct. 13, 2008: Plagued by inconsistency, Bowden resigns. Swinney is named interim coach.

2008 season: Swinney introduces the pregame Tiger Walk and “All In” Poker Chip traditions.

Nov. 1, 2008: Swinney gets his first career win, a 27-21 victory over Boston College.

2009 season: In his first full season, Swinney leads Clemson to a 9-5 record and ACC Championship Game appearance.

Jan. 17, 2010: Adams dies unexpectedly from a previously undetected heart condition.

April 22, 2010: Running back Spiller is drafted No. 9 overall by the Buffalo Bills.

Jan. 9, 2011: Clemson hires offensive coordinator Chad Morris.

January 2011: Clemson announces upgrades to football facilities, including an indoor practice facility, and continuation of the WestZone project, with concourse expansion, the oculus structure and a heritage museum.

Dec. 3, 2011: Clemson defeats Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game, winning its first conference title since 1991.

Jan. 4, 2012: West Virginia routs Clemson in the Orange Bowl, 70-33.

Jan. 20, 2012: Clemson hires defensive coordinator Brent Venables.

Nov. 10, 2012: Clemson sets a school record with their 12th consecutive home win in Death Valley.

Dec. 31, 2012: Clemson defeats LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on the game’s final play, a Chandler Catanzaro field goal.

2012 season: Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins sets a team record for career and single-season receiving touchdowns.

2012 season: Quarterback Tajh Boyd sets a team record for touchdown passes thrown in a single season.

Jan. 25, 2013: Clemson unveils the team’s new 80,000-square-foot, $10 million indoor practice facility.

April 25, 2013: Hopkins is drafted No. 27 overall by the Houston Texans.

Nov. 14, 2013: In a victory over Georgia Tech, Boyd reaches 97 career touchdown passes, breaking an ACC record previously held by Phillip Rivers.

Jan. 3, 2014: Clemson defeats Ohio State in the Orange Bowl.

2013 season: Wide receiver Sammy Watkins breaks Hopkins’ team records for career and single-season receiving yards.

2013 season: Boyd sets team records for career passing yards and career passing touchdowns.

May 8, 2014: Watkins is drafted No. 4 overall by the Buffalo Bills.

October 2014: Cornerback Martin Jenkins releases a music video for his “We Too Deep” rap song, which becomes a rallying cry for fans.

2014 season: Defensive end Vic Beasley becomes Clemson’s all-time career sack leader.

Nov. 30, 2014: Morris accepts the head coaching position at Southern Methodist University.

April 30, 2015: Beasley (No. 8) and linebacker Stephone Anthony (No. 31) are drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Dec. 5, 2015: Clemson defeats UNC in the ACC Championship Game to finish the regular season with a 13-0 record, their first undefeated season since 1981.

Dec. 6, 2015: Clemson earns the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff.

Dec. 31, 2015: Clemson defeats Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff Semifinal and advances to the College Football Playoff Championship game.

Jan. 11, 2016: Clemson loses to Alabama in the College Football Playoff Championship. Deshaun Watson sets a record for most total yards in national championship game history.

2015 season: Watson finishes the season with 5,209 total yards on offense and 48 total touchdowns, breaking team records previously held by Boyd. Watson comes in third for the Heisman trophy.

2015 season: Running back Wayne Gallman sets a team record for rushing yards in a single season.

April 28–30, 2016: Nine Tigers are drafted in the 2016 NFL Draft, the most since 1983.

Dec. 3, 2016: Clemson defeats Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game, winning consecutive ACC titles for the first time since the 1980s.

Dec. 10, 2016: Watson is named the Heisman Trophy runner-up.

Dec. 4, 2016: Clemson earns the No. 2 seed in the College Football Playoff.

Dec. 31, 2016: Clemson defeats Ohio State in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl, setting up a championship rematch against Alabama.

Jan. 9, 2017: Clemson defeats Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship, 35-31. Hunter Renfrow catches the game-winning touchdown pass with one second remaining in the game.



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