Commentary: Never Accept Losing, Especially To A Rival

by - Correspondent -
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Of the many dozens of emails I received over the weekend following Clemson's 16-13 loss at Duke, the following grabbed my attention above all others.


"I have no connections with Clemson or USC. I'm a Furman grad but I do keep up with both schools. From an outsider looking in, I think the best thing that could happen would be for USC to beat Clemson Saturday.

"This would force Coach Tommy Bowden to make some changes in his staff. It seems over the past few years Coach Tommy Bowden would just shuffle the coaches to different coaching positions. But with a season ending loss to your biggest rival, and no bowl berth, I believe this would make Tommy fire and hire, rather than rearrange.

"For Clemson to be competitive in the new ACC, Coach Bowden will have to make changes. If not, I don't see how he can coach at Clemson for much longer. I don't see the Clemson fans putting up with this much longer.

"Steve in Greenville"

Under normal circumstances I wouldn't make a point using an email from a party not directly involved with the school about which he or she is writing, but Steve's logic struck me as being well written and well planned.

It's also wrong.

To my way of thinking, there are very few - if any - circumstances where a loss under this scenario could be considered "the best thing."

At the top, losing to your biggest, most hated rival is never good. Ever.

From things which mean nothing, like bragging rights, to the one thing which means everything - recruiting - winning that game is an advantage. In a state where there are no major professional sports franchises, and where college football is and always will be king, having the upper hand over your rival is not only gratifying.

It's necessary.

Sure, you might argue that with Clemson's all-time series advantage, a loss here or there wouldn't hurt. But I disagree.

Accept one loss and it becomes easier to accept another. And then another. That's how a losing culture develops, and no school wants that.

Besides, Clemson has five losses already this season. Is it okay to accept those?

Take them and learn from them? Definitely. But accept them? Not a chance.

If coaches need to be fired based on this season's performance, one win over South Carolina isn't going to change matters. As for making it easier to "fire and hire, rather than rearrange," that shouldn't be the case.

Clemson has a strong athletic director in place. If Terry Don Phillips believes changes are necessary on staff, they'll be made regardless of whether or not Clemson wins six games and goes to a minor bowl. If, indeed, there is trouble in Tiger Land, Phillips has been around long enough to sniff it out and make the proper decisions.

And if any such changes - still speaking hypothetically of course - did come about without the blessing of Bowden, there's really not much the sixth-year coach can do about it. Loyalty to the university might cost him a few coaches.

But loyalty to friends and/or family, and choosing to step down in protest of any such moves, would cost him $4 million.

Do the math. That one's not hard to figure.

And then there is the question of the bowl game itself.

Even if the Tigers again find themselves preparing for a week on the blue turf in Boise, Idaho, it's better than not preparing at all. Besides the obligation to the seniors who have spent four or five years in this program, the chance to get in 2-3 weeks of additional practice time is simply too valuable to turn down.

And, finally, consider the University of South Carolina.

The Gamecocks have spent many seasons in scenarios such as the one facing Clemson. They have lost this final game much more often than they've won it. They've missed bowls. They've fired coaches. They've done everything Steve suggested.

Granted, while USC fans may have put up with it over the long haul, as history suggests they have, Clemson's wouldn't.

But the bottom line is nothing good ever comes of losing a rivalry game.


Begin to think otherwise, and you might be surprised how quickly things can fall apart.

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