District 17 Representative wants to fight to keep second longest uninterrupted series intact
Through the years, the Clemson-South Carolina football rivalry has survived a lot of things. It survived the Spanish Flu, two World Wars and the assassination of a United States President. But through it all, the game pushed forward and was played.
For 111 straight years, the Clemson-Carolina rivalry has been the one thing, other than death and taxes, the good people of South Carolina could count on. Until now.
The coronavirus has done something only a dispute over gate receipts and a near riot have done before, cause the cancelation of the Clemson-South Carolina game. The global pandemic and the concerns it raised for the 2020 football season caused the SEC to announce Thursday it will not play any non-conference football games in 2020.
Because the Gamecocks are a member of the SEC, it means there will be no Clemson-South Carolina game for the first time since 1909, subsequently ending the second longest uninterrupted series in college football.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Mike Burns, South Carolina Representative for District 17. “After going through all we are going through… And now to find out that the Southeastern Conference is not wanting to allow these rivalry games is very disheartening.”
The other ACC vs. SEC rivalry games the SEC canceled were the Georgia-Georgia Tech, Louisville-Kentucky and Florida-Florida State games. All of those games mean a great deal to the people who live in those states and in South Carolina there is no bigger game than the Clemson-Carolina game, or the Carolina-Clemson game, depending on what side of the rivalry one might be on.
The Tigers and Gamecocks have met on the football field for 117 years, tied for the 11th oldest rivalry in college football and it is the third oldest in the South. Only two other times in history has the series been interrupted.
In 1901, the game was not played due to a dispute with State Fair officials regarding gate receipts. Then from 1903-’08 the game was not played following a near riot between 400 Clemson cadets and South Carolina students in 1902. USC students displayed a bad-tasting transparency towards Clemson in the Elks’ Parade the Friday following the Gamecocks’ 12-6 win.
The series resumed in 1909 and they have played every year since.
“When you look back over history, and this series began in 1896, we have been through World Wars and been through multiple other pandemics and plagues. Even when President John Kennedy was assassinated the game was moved from Saturday to the following Thanksgiving Thursday,” Burns said to The Clemson Insider. “But the games have gone on. And now we do not see the value of keeping that from the Southeastern Conference. I am quite disappointed.”
Burns is so disappointed he is hoping he can get his fellow state legislators involved in passing a bill that could possibly save the game this year.
“Hopefully, we can exert some pressure and see if we can get somebody to listen to the people in South Carolina that this game needs to be played,” he said.
It would not be the first time the South Carolina Statehouse has stepped in and forced Clemson and South Carolina to play a football game. In 1952, the Southern Conference banned Clemson and Maryland from playing conference games due to accepting and playing in bowl games following the 1951 season. However, the ruling did allow for the playing of any game required by state law. This left an inviting loophole for the South Carolina Legislature. They passed a bill that year that required both schools play each other in football.
Burns says this year’s state legislature is going to see what they can do to find a similar loophole in the SEC’s decision. The ACC has already given Clemson room to play a non-conference game by its ruling on Wednesday.
“Given the chance to do it, absolutely, we are going to try,” Burns said. “We are trying to get back in session for some other issues and this would be something good to also have a conversation about and see what we can come up with on it. Absolutely, we would love to try and do that.”
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