Special to TigerNet from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger
CLEMSON --- It seems just about everyone agrees that Saturday night’s handshake ceremony before the state’s annual gridiron grudge match between Clemson and South Carolina players and coaches is a good idea -- unless you are Clemson defensive back Duane Coleman.
“I think it’s crazy to shake hands or whatever, but I’m down for whatever. I’m just ready to play football,” said the junior cornerback. “But what does this handshake mean? It’s just another chance for it to get ugly. I mean there is a chance that it could, not saying that it would so I just don’t think it would be a good idea, but whatever.”
Coleman, who was suspended in the Duke game for his participation in last year’s ugly brawl between the two schools, is the first player, coach or administrator that doesn’t think shaking hands will solve the problem or make the game any less intense.
Both South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier and Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden signed off on the proposal of athletic directors Tuesday.
Bowden sees it more as a good gesture on both schools’ part than anything else.
“I don’t know who had it, but it’s a pretty good idea,” Bowden said Wednesday. “I think it is more of a gesture. It’s probably going to be a very intense game whether there is a handshake or not.
“That’s probably going to be 20 minutes before the game or whatever. I think the intensity will remain.”
Bowden said he doesn’t expect there to be any type of hostility on either side and he doesn’t expect players on either side to get caught up in anything, especially fighting.
“The discipline last year defused any of that stuff,” he said.
Both Clemson and South Carolina were suspended from bowl participation by their school’s after the fight, which lasted for almost five minutes, stretching from midfield to the east end zone in Memorial Stadium. The SEC and the ACC then stepped in and suspended players for another game during this past season that were involved.
“Both of us have been talking to the coaches and we all agree we need to do something,” said Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips. “We need to assure that we always bring class and dignity to this rivalry.
“It’s a great rivalry and obviously some things in the past have gotten out of hand and we see this as an opportunity to make it the kind of rivalry that it truly is.”
Not all Clemson players see the pre-game handshake the way Coleman does, but to Coleman’s defense he wasn’t putting down the idea as much as he was worried about what could happen.
Offensive guard Roman Fry says the Clemson players will support the idea and will gladly stand next to their coach and show the proper sportsmanship the rivalry deserves.
“If they want to organize a pre-game handshake, that’s fine,” said the 6-foot-4, 295-pound junior. “I think we need something like that.
“Last year wasn’t a good representation for either team and if that’s what they want to do, that is fine. I think both sides know now nothing is going to happen like that. That respect is there and I think we know not to let last year happen again.”