Clemson vs. South Carolina: Future of rivalry is uncertain, but hope remains
|Friday, July 10, 2020, 8:01 AM- -|
The annual rivalry series against South Carolina is still on. For now.
Clemson’s rivalry game against South Carolina is the post-Thanksgiving highlight in the state of South Carolina, played each Saturday after Thanksgiving. The series is also the longest continuous non-conference rivalry in the nation, with the teams playing each year since 1909. The only longer consecutive rivalry is Minnesota vs. Wisconsin (it’s a conference game), who played for the 113th consecutive year last season.
Longest Continued OOC Series in College Football
Clemson vs South Carolina, 1909-Present
Georgia vs Georgia Tech, 1925-Present
Notre Dame vs Navy, 1927-Present
Army vs Navy, 1930-Present
Miami (OH) vs Cincinnati, 1945-Present
USC vs Notre Dame, 1946-Present
The Big Ten jumped the gun Thursday when it announced it was considering playing a conference-only football schedule, and it didn’t take long for reports to surface that the Atlantic Coast Conference is considering something along the same lines. Reports then surfaced late Thursday that the ACC wasn't quite ready to follow the Big Ten's lead.
Reports are that if the league goes to a conference-only schedule, Notre Dame will be a part of the mix in football. The Fighting Irish are already a member of the conference in other sports but remain an independent in football while playing a number of ACC teams each season.
So what does that mean for the rivalry? Well, if that all holds true, the teams wouldn’t play for the first time since 1909. However, part of the reason for the conference-only mindset is that the bigger schools don’t trust the testing protocols for the smaller schools and conferences. With Clemson and South Carolina, surely they would trust the testing procedures of each conference?
I reached out to a Clemson spokesman about the possibility and I was referred to the league office. A league spokesman said all options are still on the table, and conversations about not playing rivalry games have yet to occur. In other words, let’s make sure the season will actually start and when it will start before getting down to the proverbial brass tacks on scheduling.
The Tigers have won six in a row in the series and have outscored the Gamecocks 256-104 in that span. Last year’s 38-3 Clemson victory was the 117th game in the series, which Clemson leads 71-42-4.
Clemson would be going for a seventh consecutive win this season (and would more than likely be prohibitive favorites), which would tie for the longest such streak in the series (Clemson won seven in a row from 1934-1940).
For more than six decades, the story of the rivalry was the story of “Big Thursday,” the culmination of State Fair week.
According to the South Carolina Encyclopedia:
The rivalry started on Thursday, November 12, 1896, at the fairgrounds in Columbia before about 2,000 fans. The contest gained popularity in its early years, but the two schools did not compete for seven years following a riot after the 1902 game. Over the next decade, the Thursday matchup became known as the State Fair Classic. By the 1910s it had become a “combination picnic, fashion parade, political rally and drinking bout” for approximately 4,500 spectators.
Through the 1910s and 1920s the annual competition became bigger and bigger. Enlargements to the small wooden bowl stadium on the fairgrounds did little to relieve overcrowded conditions that led to many scuffles among the approximately 14,000 fans. In 1934 USC completed a new steel-and-concrete stadium on land adjoining the fairgrounds, with seating for more than 17,000 fans. Big Thursday’s popularity exploded after World War II. In 1946, after a counterfeit ticket scandal, fans broke down the general admission gate and flooded the field throughout the game. Attendance continued to keep pace as stadium capacity increased to 34,000 by 1949 and to 44,000 by 1957.
Each school developed Big Thursday traditions, including burning the Tiger at USC the night before the game and the burial of the Gamecock at Clemson on the Tuesday before students traveled to Columbia. Schools, businesses, and government offices closed for the state’s most colorful sports contest and “the biggest social event of the year.” By the late 1950s, however, Clemson was pushing for an end-of-season game played on an alternating home schedule, in part so that Clemson could share the tourist money that surrounded the game. Both schools agreed that 1959 would be the last Big Thursday game, which Clemson won, 27–0. Big Thursday ended with Clemson holding a 33–21–3 advantage.
It would be a shame for the rivalry to miss a season, especially considering how high the passions in the state of South Carolina each November. Bragging rights are huge. Right now, there is still hope, but things need to change over the next two or three weeks for there to still be a chance.
For now, however, the future of the rivalry remains uncertain.
ACC admins want more time to figure out the best format if they do end up going that way. Some have echoed the concerns of other P5 leagues today in saying they felt the P5s would all be announcing such decisions together.— Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna) July 10, 2020
"No reason to rush," adds another person on the call.