Commentary: No Thanks to Clemson - USC Series Changing Date

by - Correspondent -
Clemson and USC will play on the Saturday after Thanksgiving next year.
Clemson and USC will play on the Saturday after Thanksgiving next year.

As a season ticket holder at Clemson for 23 years, let me be the first to say that I will be in attendance at the Clemson-USC football game at Death Valley in 2006. But it won't be with the same excitement experienced in past rivalry meetings.

The reason for my discontentment isn't the brawl of last season or USC coach Steve Spurrier. In fact, Spurrier should be the one dreading a return to Death Valley, especially considering his 0-2 record while head coach at Duke in the late 1980s.

My attitude has nothing to do with what will transpire on the field, but rather what has transpired off the field. It stems from the announcement Wednesday that, beginning next season, Clemson and USC will begin meeting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

The decision itself was not surprising because the rumor has been circulating for several years. When the NCAA decided to add a 12th game, that pretty much sealed the deal.

Although a number of fans and media personalities will praise the decision, pointing out the added exposure provided to Clemson and USC, I feel there is more at stake than simply a football game.

Thanksgiving is a season when families gather together, often traveling long distances to spend a holiday weekend. The fact that Clemson and USC fans alike will have to decide whether to attend the game or conduct their family affairs as before, but miss the game, is regrettable.

College football season, though exciting, is a long one - beginning in early September and typically ending around mid-November. Fans invest anywhere from six to seven Saturdays attending home games and 11 to 12 games for both home and away contests.

So far this season, both Clemson and USC have enjoyed their moments in the national television sun. USC kicked off the 2005 season with a Thursday night appearance on ESPN and Clemson-Texas A&M played before a national audience on ABC-TV two evenings later.

The Clemson-Miami game Saturday is considered a big enough deal by ABC-TV that its number one announcing crew of Brad Nessler, Bob Griese and Lynn Swann will be in Death Valley. So the argument that a Thanksgiving weekend contest between the Tigers and Gamecocks would generate badly needed exposure fails to hold water, especially considering the amount of television time both teams are already receiving.

Those who argue the Clemson-USC game itself would benefit from such exposure also fail to see the big picture. With the addition of a 12th game, all of the rivalry games will take place a week later than normal, meaning that Clemson-USC will still be overshadowed by the likes of Ohio State-Michigan and Alabama-Auburn.

There is no doubt that ABC, ESPN and other college football outlets have done a tremendous job of bringing the game to fans all around the country.

At the same time, they have done a disservice with Thursday night games, which appeal to all fans but those who have ever attended in person, and Friday night games that harm high school football.

In fact, ABC attempted to move the Clemson-Texas A&M game to the Sunday before Labor Day before being thwarted by Clemson University athletic officials.

Now, the electronic monster has placed its hooks into the Clemson-USC game, bringing chaos to supporters who enjoy attending the game, but also have a life outside of it. Thank goodness the regular season of college football ends in early December because, otherwise, the television gurus would have Clemson-USC playing on Christmas Day.

Yes, I plan to sit in the stands observing the Clemson-USC game in 2006.

While the loser on the field will be either the Tigers or Gamecocks, the real losers will be fans of both schools. This is simply another case where tradition has been compromised for the sake of a few extra dollars.

The biggest disgrace this rivalry has seen isn't the brawl of 2004. Instead, it is the NCAA with its mandated 12th game and television. We as fans are the lemmings, blindly following the path set before us and, sadly, realizing that failing to do so is only harmful to ourselves.

While the fourth weekend in November is a time of giving thanks, I can promise you the Clemson-USC game that weekend won't be included on my list.

Greg Oliver is a columnist for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger.

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