By Tim Bourret || Clemson Athletic Communications
I am sure the release about the Clemson vs. Auburn two-game series in 2016 and 2017 was met with great joy among Clemson fans. It's another example of Clemson’s scheduling philosophy to play a strong all-around schedule.
With this announcement, Clemson will have played two SEC opponents (or Notre Dame and an SEC opponent) every year between 2010-17. And in 2009 (Dabo Swinney's first year), the Tigers played a top-10 TCU program in addition to an SEC team.
"If we are going to compete for the College Football Playoff, playing a challenging schedule is a must and our formula is to play two high profile non-conference games each year,” Swinney told me.
Coach continued: "We have had some great games with Auburn over the last 10 years, including the recent three-game series when all the games were thrillers that had an impacton the national college football scene. It's a great series for our fans because these are two programs with great traditions and passionate fan bases. I look forward to competing against Auburn in the coming years."
There is a long history between the two programs that dates to the early years of Clemson football:
- The first three coaches in Clemson football history were Auburn graduates. Walter Riggs, Clemson’s first head coach and later University President, was Clemson’s head coach in 1896 and 1899. He was an 1893 Auburn graduate. William Williams, Clemson’s head coach in 1897, was an 1896 Auburn graduate, while John Penton, Clemson’s head coach in 1898, had graduated from Auburn in the spring of 1898.
- John Heisman was not an Auburn graduate, but he came to Clemson from Auburn. He coached at Auburn from 1895-1899 and came to Clemson to coach the 1900-03 era. Heisman was 12-4-2 at Auburn before coming to Clemson. He was 19-3-2 as head coach of the Tigers for those four years. He then left Clemson to become the head coach at Georgia Tech. His .833 winning percentage is the best in Clemson history (minimum of four years).
- Heisman coached for each school within the first two games of this series. He defeated Clemson for Auburn in 1899 by a 34-0 score, then defeated Auburn as Clemson’s head coach by a 16-0 score in 1902.
- Both schools have a main administration building on campus that is virtually the same architecture. Clemson’s Tillman Hall was modeled after Auburn’s Langdon Hall. In fact, noted Atlanta Constitution columnist and humorist Lewis Grizzard used to refer to Clemson as “Auburn with a Lake.”
- Both Clemson and Auburn were among the top programs in college football in the 1980s. In fact, Clemson won 87 games in the 1980s and Auburn won 86. The Tigers had the fifth best winning percentage in college football in that decade with an 87-25-4 record for a .767 mark. Auburn had the 10th best winning percentage wit ha 86-31-1 record, a .733 winning percentage.
- Both schools had a Bowden serve as head coach of their program. Terry Bowden served as head coach at Auburn from 1993-98 and Tommy Bowden coached Clemson from 1999-08. Tommy also served as an assist coach at Auburn from 1991-96. Terry coached against Clemson for Auburn in the 1997 season Chick-fil-a Bowl and Tommy Bowden coached for Clemson against Auburn in the 2007 season Chick-fil-A Bowl.
- As recently as 2010, Auburn won the national championship behind coach Gene Chizik, who was a graduate assistant under Danny Ford at Clemson in the 1980s.
The two schools have met four times since 2007 with each winning twice. And, all the games have been thrillers. Auburn won in overtime in the 2007 Chick-fil-A Bowl. When the Auburn Tigers won the 2010 National Championship, the only team to take them to overtime was Clemson, a game Auburn won 27-24 at Auburn.
Clemson has won the last two games. In 2011, Clemson’s 38-24 victory was a landmark victory because it ended Auburn’s 17-game winning streak. Clemson made up a 14-point deficit in a coming out party for Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. The Tigers won the opener for the 2012 season in the Georgia Dome 26-19, a victory that jumpstarted Clemson to its first 11-win season since 1981.
It is a shame the two schools did not play in 2013 as both had dynamic offenses behind coaching comrades Chad Morris and Gus Malzahn, who have both taken the same path as long time high school coaches to national prominence in the college game.
The players will be different, but one thing that won’t change is the competitive fire of both teams and both fan bases. It will be what college football is all about.