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The Clemson Tigers football team, known traditionally as the "Clemson University Fighting Tigers", represents Clemson University in the sport of American football. The Tigers compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Formed in 1896, the program has achieved a Consensus Division I Football National Championship, 18 conference championships, 5 undefeated seasons and 2 divisional titles, and has produced 68 All-Americans, 15 Academic All-Americans, and 169 NFL players. Clemson has had six members inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
With 18 total conference titles, Clemson is one of the founding members of the ACC and holds the most conference titles of any school at 14. The Tigers' most recent ACC championship came in 2011 with a 38–10 win over 5th-ranked Virginia Tech.
Among its five undefeated seasons, Clemson won their first and only poll-era national football championship in 1981 with a 22–15 win over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. The Tigers have 34 total bowl appearances. Former players Terry Kinard, Jeff Davis, and Banks McFadden have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Former coaches Frank Howard, Jess Neely, and John Heisman are also inductees into the Hall. The Tigers have finished in the Final Top 25 rankings 25 times in the program's history.
The Tigers play their home games in Memorial Stadium on the university's Clemson, South Carolina campus. The stadium is also known as "Death Valley" after a Presbyterian College head coach gave it the moniker in 1948 due to the many defeats his teams suffered there. Currently, it is the 19th largest stadium in college football.
Walter Merritt Riggs can be characterized as the "Father of Clemson Football," as he brought the game with him from Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama (now Auburn University). The fact that Auburn and Clemson share the same mascot is no accident. Riggs allowed his players to pick the team mascot and, although he may have influenced their decision, the players chose Tigers because Princeton University had just won the national championship. Riggs helped organize and coach the infant Tiger team in 1896. Indeed, when the Tigers traveled to Greenville on Halloween to play Furman in their very first match, only Coach Riggs and backfield player Frank Thompkins had ever seen a football game played. Today in Clemson, the soccer field is named Historic Riggs field after Walter Riggs.
Riggs took the team to a 2–1 record in the inaugural year. He then stepped aside at the urging of the cadets, who felt that he should concentrate on his scholastic duties rather than coach the team for free. William M. Williams coached the Tigers in 1897, guiding them to a 2–2 record. In 1898, John Penton led the Tigers to a 3–1 record.
In 1899, when the Clemson Athletic Association could not afford a coaching salary, Riggs again took over the reins, one of only two Clemson football coaches to return to the position after stepping down. The 1899 squad went 4–2. Riggs' overall record of 6–3 gives him a .667 winning percentage.
After a decade as a Mechanical Engineering professor, he was named acting president of Clemson Agricultural College in 1910, being confirmed by the Board of Trustees as permanent president on March 7, 1911. He served until his untimely death on January 22, 1924 while on a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with officials of other land grant institutions.