A new protective case covers Howard’s Rock on Friday at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. (AP photo)
CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson University Police have charged an 18-year-old North Carolina man with vandalizing the school’s beloved Howard’s Rock and it appears he is a Tigers fan.
Micah Rogers, of Pisgah Forest, was arrested and charged Friday with felony malicious injury to personal property and misdemeanor trespassing more than three weeks after the iconic college football symbol was damaged on June 2, police said. A protective case was damaged and a piece of the stone chipped away.
Clemson Police Capt. Eric Hendricks said Rogers was identified after video was released of a pickup truck outside the stadium when the rock was vandalized June 2. Other people were seen on the video and Hendricks said authorities were tipped off to Rogers by a witness. Hendricks said the investigation is ongoing.
Rogers was in court Friday and released on $5,470 bond. His attorney, Frank Epps, did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.
Soon after the vandalism, speculation from Clemson fans centered on a South Carolina supporter (the rivals share a longtime distaste for each other) or a Georgia backer (the schools’ are about two hours apart and open the season at Clemson on Aug. 31). But it appears Rogers cheered for the Tigers after police found his truck had a Clemson tiger paw sticker and other school memorabilia was found in his home.
“I’ll make you draw your own conclusions with that,” Hendricks said.
Police have not yet found the missing piece of the rock and are continuing the search.
Howard’s Rock has been a fixture for Clemson football since the late 1960s when the stone was brought to campus from Death Valley, Calif., by Samuel C. Jones, a close friend of then-coach Frank Howard. The coach had little use for it until school booster Gene Willimon affixed to a pedestal and placed it at the entrance of Memorial Stadium.
Legend has it that during the 1967 season Howard told his players if they didn’t want to give maximum effort they should “keep your filthy hands off of my rock.” Ever since, Tiger players gather at the pedestal and rub the rock for good luck before rushing down the hill for games.
It left for a two-month period before the 2000 season when John Fernandez’s granite sawing company worked to fit it on a new pedestal. Fernandez was a 1969 Clemson graduate who said the rock was only out of his sight while he slept. He even held a cookout with the rock as the guest of honor.
The rock sits on a black granite base with the inscription, “Howard’s Rock. From Death Valley, CA, to Death Valley, SC.”
Former Clemson linebacker Jeff Davis said the power of the rock comes from knowing how hard others who stood there before you worked to make the Tigers a success. “The power comes from the individual touching the rock. You understand the numerous athletes that paid the price for you to be there,” said Davis, part of the Clemson’s 1981 national champions and now a football administrator for his alma mater.
Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said the school has increased security around the rock to prevent future vandalism. He believed Clemson fans will sleep easier knowing the school was able to catch a perpetrator.