The first real memory Jay Guillermo has of the Clemson-South Carolina Rivalry isn’t one Clemson and South Carolina is proud of.
In 2004, just before the end of the Tigers’ 29-7 victory in Death Valley, the benches cleared as the two teams got in one of the biggest brawls that as ever occurred in college football. It was so bad, and was such an embarrassment to both programs, the schools agreed to take away their bowl games as punishment.
For a young Jay Guillermo, who was just 10 years old at the time, he just watched in amazement at what was happening.
“I remember thinking, ‘Wow, they really, really do not like each other.’ That kind of opened my eyes,” the Clemson center said earlier this week. “Hopefully, that is something that never happens again, but I think that is kind of one of my first memories of the rivalry, just thinking how big the rivalry was. You see all of these other big-time rivalries, but there never has been anything like that.”
Fortunately, there has not been anything since. However, that does not mean the two teams or their fan bases like one another. Guillermo says he cannot stand to look at the Gamecock logo and he hates the colors garnet and black.
“We don’t like each other,” the senior said.
But that’s what makes the rivalry so fun. If Clemson and Carolina always got along then it would not be much of a rivalry.
“In my opinion, and obviously I’m bias because I’m a part of it, but it’s one of the best rivalries in college football,” Guillermo said. “Once again, if you don’t win, you hear about it all year. You even hear about it three years later after you beat them twice in a row. It is one you do not want to lose. It’s special, and no, I don’t like garnet and black very much.”
Guillermo laughed when he described what the bus ride is like in Columbia when the Clemson team makes its way over to the stadium. He said as they get closer, Gamecock fans use their middle finger to give the Tigers the No. 1 sign.
“Even the little kids were telling you that you were No. 1, so it is an awesome rivalry,” Guillermo said while laughing. “It’s something special.”
When South Carolina visits Clemson, like it will do on Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. kick, Guillermo says he can see the difference in the way the fans mingle as opposed to when Clemson is playing a Louisville or Pitt. As the buses drive into Clemson, Guillermo says he can see the visiting team’s fans are tailgating with Clemson fans all throughout the bus ride.
“Not whenever the rivalry comes around. It’s a section of Clemson fans, and then there is South Carolina. We don’t intermingle. We don’t like each other. Even with our fans,” he said. “It’s something pretty good and to watch out for when we ride the buses.”
Clemson has student coaches, who once played for the Tigers back in the 1980s and ‘90s, such as former running back Terry Allen and wide receiver Keith Jennings, that have relayed to the current team on why it so important to beat South Carolina.
“South Carolina is not a team we want to lose to,” Guillermo said. “They tell us how the rivalry was in the ’90s and the ’80s and how it has not changed. South Carolina still does not like Clemson and Clemson still does not like South Carolina, and how special that is. It is really something special to be a part of.”