The end of a great rivalry: Clemson-Maryland football formed ACC


By Will Vandervort

In 1951, the presidents of the 17-member Southern Conference decided they needed to deemphasize football. A week after the season started they recommended and voted that the conference ban bowl competition by member schools, effective that year.

This move, ultimately led to the formation of the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1953.

In the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, Maryland and Clemson were two of the best teams in the Southern Conference and started gaining a reputation as a national power as well.

From 1948-’59, the Tigers appeared in six bowl games, while winning the Southern Conference once and three ACC Championships. Seven times they finished ranked in the Final Associated Press Top 20 poll.

Maryland had even a better reputation. From 1947-’55, Maryland turned into a powerhouse under the great Jim Tatum. The Terrapins won the 1948 and 1950 Gator Bowls before beating National Champion Tennessee in the 1952 Sugar Bowl. In those days the national champion was decided before the bowl games took place. Maryland finished the 1951 season 11-0.

Prior to their 1952 Bowl Season, Clemson and Maryland both accepted bids to play in bowl games despite the wishes of the Southern Conference presidents. Clemson was to play Miami in the 1952 Gator Bowl, while Maryland was heading to New Orleans to play Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl.

Before the two were to play in their respected bowl games, the Southern Conference placed both schools on probation as neither school could play a Southern Conference foe in 1952, except each other, unless there was a rule that forced them to play another member of the conference.

The South Carolina General Assembly passed a law or resolution requiring Clemson and South Carolina to play their traditional Big Thursday game during the State Fair in 1952.

“I don’t know what kind of punishment they call it, but tearing up our schedule is a little bit harsher than we expected,” then Clemson head football coach and athletic director Frank Howard said to the media at the time. “Shucks, I don’t mind it as much as some of the teams we are playing. It’s going to hurt them more than us.”

Prior to the 1952 season, talk had already begun about forming a new conference, and part of the reason was the Southern Conference’s ban on bowl games. At the Southern Conference’s annual meeting on May 8, 1953, seven schools withdrew to form the ACC. Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, NC State, South Carolina and Wake Forest were the ACC’s charter members.

Maryland wasted no time bringing national recognition to the new conference as it again posted an undefeated regular season and was recognized as the Associated Press National Champion in 1953.

Prior to the 1952 probation season, Clemson and Maryland never played in football. When the Tigers and Terps take to the field at Byrd Stadium this Saturday it will mark the 62nd straight season the two have played, but it will also mark the last time they will play for the unforeseeable future.

Last fall, Maryland decided to leave the ACC and join the Big 10. It’s fitting the last possible game between these two team ends in the same place it began all those years ago after they stood up to the Southern Conference and dared the rest of the conference to take a stand with them.

Maryland won that first game 28-0, but Clemson has come back to win 33 games since then and leads the all-time series 33-26-2. For the most part it has been one of the best rivalries in the ACC.

“Clemson-Maryland is kind of one of those staples that has been in this conference for a long-long time,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said following Wednesday’s practice. “This is my eleven season at Clemson and I have been a part of a bunch of those games. I have been up there several times and have had some crazy games up there, that’s for sure.”

Both have won national championships. Of the charter members, no school has won more ACC Championships in football than Clemson (14) and Maryland (9). From 1981-’88, only Clemson (5) and Maryland (3) won an ACC Championship.

Clemson has the most ACC wins in the league with 254 and Maryland is third with 209.

The 1978 game, a 28-24 Clemson victory to win the ACC Championship, is still considered one of the greatest games in ACC history.

“Hopefully, we can play our best game and send them onto the Big 10 in good ACC fashion,” Swinney said.

Clemson vs. Maryland Series Notes

•Clemson holds a 33-26-2 advantage in the series with Maryland. The first game of the series was played in 1952, one year before both teams became charter members of the ACC. The two schools have played every year since 1952, the longest active continuous rivalry for the Tigers against an ACC school. It is the longest continuous rivalry for Maryland as well. That streak will come to an end in 2014 as Maryland moves to the Big 10.

• The Terps won each of the first four games in the series before the Tigers got a tie in 1956 and a win in 1957.

*The visiting team won four straight games between 2005-08. The home team pulled off an upset in 2009 and 2010. Maryland won just two games all year in 2009, but defeated a Clemson team that won nine games and played for the ACC Championship. In 2010, Clemson finished with a 6-7 record, but defeated a nine-win Maryland team that finished in the final top 25 by a 31-7 score.

•Clemson had won eight in a row and 13 of 14 prior to Ralph Friedgen’s return to his alma mater for the 2001 season. Friedgen finished 6-4 against Clemson, including a 3-2 record at Death Valley and 3-2 in Byrd Stadium.

•Clemson won the first meeting of the Randy Edsall era in 2011 by a 56-45 score at Maryland. Clemson defeated an injury riddled Maryland team last year at Clemson’s homecoming 45-10.

•The three meetings between 2004-06 were decided within the last three minutes of the game and the average victory margin in those three games was just 2.7 points.

•Clemson held Maryland to just 12 total points in winning every game between 1993-98. Clemson recorded four shutouts, including three in a row during that time period. During Clemson’s eight-game winning streak in the series from 1993-2000, Clemson held Maryland to an average of 7.0 points per game, while scoring 26.8 points per game themselves.

•In 2002, Maryland defeated Clemson in Death Valley, its first win at Memorial Stadium since 1985. It was Ralph Friedgen’s first game as Maryland head coach against Clemson in Death Valley. Clemson has won 11 of the last 14 between the two teams in Death Valley. Maryland won at Clemson in an upset in 2006 by a 13-12 score. Had Clemson won that 2006 game it would have played in the ACC Championship game.


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