Death Valley named ACC's No. 1 stadium

Clemson is 19-2 in its last 21 games going into a 72nd season at Memorial Stadium

Tiger fans cheer as Clemson's Dabo Swinney points upward while rubbing Howard's Rock before kickoff with FSU at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Tiger fans cheer as Clemson's Dabo Swinney points upward while rubbing Howard's Rock before kickoff with FSU at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

Clemson's Memorial Stadium has been ranked as the No. 1 college football stadium in the ACC by Athlon Sports.

The publication solicited a ranking from 12 beat media members from ACC schools and Clemson received nine of the 12 first-place votes to win the poll by a large margin. Florida State’s Doak Campbell Stadium (2, 2 first place votes) and Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium (3, one first place vote) also received first-place votes.

Earlier this summer, the same publication announced its rating of the top 25 college football stadiums in the nation and Clemson placed No. 7 nationally.

Memorial Stadium, known as “Death Valley” since the late 1940s when Presbyterian Coach Lonnie McMillan coined the term, was first opened on September 19, 1942. The Tigers have a record of 276-101-7 in 72 years in the facility.

Clemson has been especially successful in the facility since Dabo Swinney became the head coach in 2008. His Clemson teams are 32-6 in Memorial Stadium, including 19-2 over the last three years.

The stadium is known for its hill at the East end of the stadium. The Clemson team enters before home games by running down the hill, a tradition that dates to 1942 when it was the easiest way to get to the floor of the stadium from the team’s locker room in nearby Fike Fieldhouse.

In 1966, Howard’s Rock was added at the top of the hill. Named after former Clemson Head Coach Frank Howard, the team individually rubs Howard’s Rock as it starts its descent to the floor of the stadium.

In 1985, while speaking with then Clemson Sports Information Director Bob Bradley the day before the Clemson vs. Georgia game, legendary broadcaster Brent Musburger told Bradley with a smile, “It is the most exciting 25 seconds in college football.” Bradley ran with the quote and it has contributed to the stadium’s legend.

In 2013, Musburger was back at Clemson to broadcast the Clemson vs. Georgia game and he spoke to the crowd over the public address system as the team made its entrance.

Athlon’s ACC stadium ranks

1. Clemson (9)

2. Florida State (2)

3. Virginia Tech (1)

4. Louisville

5. N.C. State

6. Georgia Tech

7. UNC

8. Virginia

9. Syracuse

10. Miami

11. Pittsburgh

12. Boston College

13. Wake Forest

14. Duke

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Comments » 1

BrandonRink writes:

Ranking the 10 ACC sites I've been to on this job...

1) Clemson - Not much question here, the big-game atmosphere at Clemson is unmatched in the ACC.

2) Florida State - Been here for one game, Clemson-FSU 2012, and that was a strong big-game atmosphere as well. Cool stadium, lively gameday atmosphere and hard to beat the pregame with the flaming spear.

3) Virginia Tech - The one game I covered it was cold and rainy in early October and not the Thursday night game atmosphere that's revered. You can't question how loud it can get if you watch this -

4) N.C. State - When packed, Carter-Finley can be a pretty tough place to play.

5) Georgia Tech - Cool setting with the Atlanta skyline in full view from the open pressbox. Not sold out often, but a decent atmosphere.

6) Syracuse - Domes are fun and they can get loud. It has that "pro" feel to it, but it is right smack dab in the middle of Syracuse's campus and not so cavernous a la the Georgia Dome. Clemson had no trouble up there last fall, but with a recruiting boost, I could see Syracuse being a tough place to play down the road.

7) Virginia - Beautiful campus, nice stadium, but it's easily overrun by opposing fanbases - not exactly intimidating.

8) Duke - The Duke/Clemson atmosphere in 2012 was actually really good and that's only going to grow under David Cutcliffe. But it is a strange feeling having to go through a medical office to get to the pressbox...and it has a track around it like a high school.

9) Wake Forest - My experience is probably marred by a light (really light) Thursday night crowd. Clemson plays again there on a Thursday this season and I'm not expecting much better. As far as looks go, it's in a nice spot and a nice looking stadium.

10) Miami - I haven't been to a Miami home game, but have been to Sun Life Stadium for two Orange Bowls. It's a pro stadium in the middle of nowhere and so big it's hard to generate any real atmosphere. They are planning to renovate so hopefully they can improve that, but Miami needs a more close-to-campus outfit.

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