Bowden Doesn't Add Fuel To Fire Of Rivalry

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - Tommy Bowden may be in just his third season as Clemson's head coach, but he has no trouble understanding the importance of the rivalry with South Carolina.

After all, this is a man who has seen the hatred of the Alabama-Auburn rivalry. From both sides. So when he came to Clemson in 1999, Bowden had a clear view of how serious fans from both teams took the rivalry.

Now, two years later, nothing that has happened between the teams has changed that view.

"Anytime you have an in-state rivalry as opposed to cross-state, it's a lot more intense because there's a good chance you have a family member or wife or husband that has either gone to that school or prefers the other school or has ties to the other school," Bowden said Tuesday during his weekly press conference. "It's a year-round topic. I think the players sense that when they go to family reunions or go back to the high school or home for the summer.

"This state is split 50-50 and you're born into the split. It's intense because there are no pro sports in the state, so the allegiance is to one of these two schools."

As the season wears on and the game draws near, fan intensity whips into a frenzy.

Radio talk shows and Internet discussion boards are ripe with jabs back and forth between supporters of the two schools, and each day that goes by turns up that intensity another notch. When this week - game week - finally arrives, the "smack talk" flows freely and tickets are impossible to find.

Add to that mix the fact that Clemson has won four straight meetings between the schools, and Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium promises to be a battle zone. For Clemson's seniors, its a chance to pull off a rarity - class superiority over their most hated rival.

Even so, Bowden doesn't spend much time bringing up that fact.

"Players talk about it more than the coaches do," he said. "I think the players are more aware of that. I don't talk about it that much with the team. It's been mentioned once or twice. It's not something we mention everyday and talk about so much. I think the team might, however."

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