Evolution of the Clemson Tigers


Clemson University may be more well-known as a football school (in fact, they won the national title most recently in 2016, and their basketball program has yet to appear in a Final Four), but this season has gone well for the Tigers, and expectations are running pretty high these days in South Carolina. Clemson was founded in 1889, and it formed a basketball team a couple of decades later in 1911. Let’s take a look at its basketball program and how the Clemson Tiger logo has changed over the 100-plus seasons the team has participated in basketball.


Clemson History

Clemson’s first basketball coach was Frank Dobson, who spent time as a professional basketball player before coming to coach at the university. Although he only coached for two years, he led the team to its only undefeated season the first year, when the team went 4-0.

There have been quite a few coaches since, and the school reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 1980 under coach Bill C. Foster. The team, a six seed, made it to the Elite Eight before ultimately falling out of the tourney to UCLA. Since then, they’ve played in the NCAA tournament several times, but haven’t eked past the Sweet Sixteen since that first journey in March 1980.


Logo Evolution

Clemson is known as the Tigers, and has been since the school’s first football coach Walter Merritt Riggs brought the game and jersey from his alma mater – Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now known as Auburn University who are, of course, known as the Tigers. The first logos featured the fierce cat, but that did change over time.


An early rendition of Clemson’s logo is a realistic-looking orange tiger’s head and neck, his mouth open in what we can imagine is a snarl.


This logo is a bit more cartoonish. The tiger here looks happy and satisfied as he lounges within a large capital “C.” He’s full-bodied, and his tail hangs leisurely down below the bottom of the letter.


Here, we revert back to a realistic-looking (and growling) tiger head. This tiger is facing the viewer and looks like he’s going to get you. Below, “Clemson” is spelled out in all caps.


This tiger is similar to the other realistic versions that came before it. This tiger is colored orange and purple, likely the official Clemson orange and regalia of the school. “Clemson” is still spelled out in all caps beneath the tiger.


The Tiger Paw makes its first appearance in 1977, and this is the logo that remains today – recognized all over the country as being a part of Clemson and its athletic programs. In the early ’70s, discussions begin to create a new logo to develop something more original and unique. Those behind the new logo contact the Smithsonian Institution for a photo of a paw and the National History Museum in Chicago for a cast of a tiger paw. Both are referenced in the logo’s creation. It sits at a 30-degree angle, which reflects the typical 1 p.m. start for football games as is normal in these days. Also, the scar that appears on the bottom of the paw reflects the cast that is made during the research phase of the logo design – that tiger has a similar scar.

Get Your Tiger Paw

Are you headed to Littlejohn Coliseum to watch your Tigers take on their next opponent? Or have you booked your tickets to a round of the NCAA Tournament and hope to see your boys take it all the way? Well, make sure you head over to Fanatics to get all the authentic Tigers gear your orange-bleedin’ heart desires.




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