by Fitzgerald Cecilio
For the second time in its long history, Howard's Rock, one of the iconic symbols in college football, has been vandalized, according to a police report obtained from the Clemson University Police Department.
According to the report, Lt. Gary Leslie arrived at Memorial Stadium at 2:30 p.m. on June 3 and found "a large piece of the rock was missing."
Leslie reported that the plastic protective cover over the rock was sitting on the ground near the gate and that police were able to get a partial print off the pedestal.
The initial damage was estimated at $500, but the total damage is yet to be known. An investigation to identify the perpetrator is ongoing.
"It is very disappointing that someone would disrespect our unique tradition to this extent," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in a statement.
"It is one of the iconic images of the game. I am sure Clemson police will investigate this thoroughly and hold the person accountable for this behavior," he added.
Despite the incident, sports information director Tim Bourret said the Clemson football team will continue its tradition of rubbing the rock and running down the hill.
The Tigers began the tradition of running down the hill, which sits above the east end zone, in 1942.
The rock was brought to the university in either 1964 or 1965 by Clemson alumnus S.C. Jones, who found it while driving through Death Valley.
Jones then presented the rock to Tigers coach Frank Howard. It sat in Howard's office for a couple of years.
While cleaning out his office before the 1966 season, Howard saw the rock and told Gene Willimon, executive secretary of the school's booster club, to "do something with it, but get it out of my office!"
Willimon arranged for the rock to be put on a pedestal at the top of the hill above the east end zone. It was unveiled on Sept. 24, 1966, when Clemson played Virginia. The Tigers were trailing by 18 points with 17 minutes left and came back to win 40-35.
Rubbing the rock and running down the hill has become one of the most recognized pregame traditions in college football. It began on Sept. 23, 1967, when Clemson beat Wake Forest 23-6.
Before running down the hill that day, Howard told his players, "If you're going to give me 110 percent, you can rub that rock. If you're not, keep your filthy hands off of it."
In 1992, during the week of the game against rival South Carolina, someone successfully chiseled off a piece of the rock but he was never identified.
Bourret said the university will now try to further tighten the security around the rock.
"We are in the process of making some changes to make it more secure," Bourret said. "We're looking at installing some cameras and things of that nature, looking into an alarm system."