Auburn vs. Clemson: Two Teams Created with One Vision, 100 Years Ago

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Auburn vs. Clemson: Two Teams Created with One Vision, 100 Years Ago
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Auburn and Clemson Football goes back 112 years

Did you ever notice the similarities between Auburn and Clemson? 

They both have the Tiger as their mascot, they are both land-grant institutions, the legendary John Heisman (yes, the trophy) coached football at both schools and their colors are orange and blue(well, for Clemson it was intended to be blue in the beginning). Also, they both have "Tiger Walks."

One of the South’s favorite humorists and writers, Lewis Grizzard, wrote about the two, “Clemson is Auburn with a lake.”

Actually, the football programs are very closely linked by the circumstances surrounding their beginnings, going back to the late 1800s.  Some have said that without Auburn, there wouldn't be a Clemson Football program—at least not as we know it today.  Let me tell you why.

It seems that a gentleman named Walter M. Riggs graduated from Auburn with an engineering degree in 1892. He also played on the Tiger’s first football team.

With the degree in hand, Mr. Riggs quickly ditched the idea of becoming an engineer and poured his passion into football, as a graduate coach for the game he loved so much.

In 1895, he was given the task of finding a new head coach on the Plains and after an extensive search, he offered the job to John W. Heisman for $500 a year—Lake house was not an option then.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

A year later, Walter Riggs left the Auburn program in the hands of Heisman and headed off to Clemson, South Carolina to start up a football program there.

Clemson had no mascot, no school colors, nothing. So Riggs just took off with what he knew from Auburn, branding them the Clemson Tigers.

In fact, he was low on money—probably used it on Heisman’s salary—so when he left the Plains, he brought some of Auburn’s old practice uniforms with him, which happened to have orange and navy jerseys.

Because the jerseys had gone through a few washboard scrubbings, they were quite faded—the navy worse than the orange. So Riggs made the school’s predominant color orange and the faded condition of the navy became the purplish color, officially known today as Regalia.

John Heisman would coach at Auburn until 1899, then moved over to coach Clemson for three years until 1903—probably another cost consideration by Walter Riggs.

Interestingly enough, the teams didn't start playing each other until 1899, three years after the Clemson team was founded and Heisman's last year at Auburn. The AU Tigers won that first contest 34-0.

In the days of Shug Jordan and Frank Howard, Auburn and Clemson played each other more often than today, the longest consecutive series being 10 games between 1946 to 1955.  However, the two really haven’t played that much in the last 112 years, logging only 47 total games since their first game in 1899. By the way, Auburn leads the series at 34-11-2.

So this weekend will mark the 48th meeting of the sibling schools at the home of the Clemson Tigers, where Walter Riggs became the football visionary, creating a symbiotic tradition for two schools through nothing more than a nickname, a mascot, some faded football jerseys and a pure love for the game of football.

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