Clemson, formally founded as Clemson Agricultural College in November 1889, was originally a military school, reflecting a belief at the time that a military atmosphere produced the highest academic excellence.
Beginning with the first graduating class of 1896, more than 10,000 Clemson men and women have served in the armed forces. Throughout the decades, Clemson's military heritage has remained, even as the university transitioned to a coeducational civilian institution in 1955. Saturday’s game against Pitt will be Clemson's 27th Military Appreciation Day.
The history of the special day dates to 1994 when Clemson had a special flyover for the Clemson vs. Georgia Tech game on Nov. 12, just one day after Veterans Day. The flyover of four F-16s from Shaw Air Force Base during pregame was the highlight of the celebration that day. Clemson has celebrated its military history every year since during games held in November or when Clemson plays host to a school with its own military heritage.
However, for some members of the Tigers’ team, the day is more than donning all-purple uniforms for the only time this season. For some players like junior wide receiver Justyn Ross, the game means more because his mom, Charay Franklin, has served overseas in the Navy and has been deployed as a part of the Alabama National Guard.
Smith was unable to attend Clemson three years ago when Ross came for an official visit, as she was deployed. However, when she made it to the game two years ag, as the Tigers honored the military for their game against The Citadel, it was more important than even Ross understood at the time.
“Yeah, it did (have an impact on her). After the fact, she was telling me that it meant a lot to her because I took my official on Military Appreciation Day, so It does take a big toll on her,” Ross said.
Clemson has a 22-4 record in the previous 26 Military Appreciation Day games. The Tigers have won 12 such games in a row, with the last loss coming against Virginia Tech in 2007.