To say I was disappointed when the SEC announced it was going to play a 10-game conference-only schedule for football on Thursday, is an understatement. I, like many of you, was pretty bummed by the news.
Right when we heard it, we all knew what the news meant – there will be no Clemson vs. South Carolina game this year. As a self-proclaimed historian of the rivalry, I was sad. As someone who grew up in South Carolina, I was mad.
When word later came out that South Carolina President Bob Caslen was the only SEC President who voted the league should play one non-conference game, I was furious. Florida, Kentucky and Georgia all cowered down to the SEC establishment when it came to preserving their in-state rivalry games.
Granted, they would not have changed the vote, but at least they would have shown they cared a little more about playing their in-state rivals. So, kudos to South Carolina for having Clemson’s back and fighting to save the rivalry, a game that means so much to so many in the state of South Carolina.
“Throughout discussions with other SEC presidents and chancellors, I took the position that we should continue to play our in-state rival, but I support the ultimate decision to have conference-only play,” Caslen said in a statement from the university.
Like Caslen and the University of South Carolina, Clemson fought just as hard on the ACC side of things. In fact, Dan Radakovich appealed to the league to consider the plus-one model the league ultimately approved in order to save the nation’s second longest uninterrupted series in college football.
“Clemson aggressively lobbied the ACC to include an additional non-conference game for the primary purpose of maintaining our long-standing rivalry game with South Carolina,” Radakovich said in a statement. “We’re disappointed to hear of the scheduling decision announced by the SEC, as we know the importance of The Palmetto Bowl to the State of South Carolina. We will work to fill the opening on our schedule immediately.”
I wonder if the SEC might have felt differently about preserving these rivalries had it been three of their teams hosting the four end-of-the-year games this season? Remember, that would have given them the television rights for those games. Only Georgia was scheduled to host its in-state rival in Georgia Tech in 2020.
The sad thing about all of this is the SEC could have done the right thing here and played the games earlier, maybe even given its league members an option to play non-conference games prior to Sept. 26. That way, if some did not feel it was safe to play a game before then, then they did not have to do it. However, at least it would have given South Carolina an opportunity to play Clemson, which I’m sure Clemson would have been happy to oblige given this year’s situation.
South Carolina Representative Mike Burns says he is going to do his best to see if he and his fellow legislators can exert pressure on the SEC by possibly making the Clemson-South Carolina game a state law, similar to what the Statehouse did in 1952.
Until then, we all have to move forward and come to the realization that for the first time since 1908, Clemson and South Carolina will not play a football game. To give you an idea what was going on in America the last time the two rivals did not play, Henry Ford introduced the country to his first automobile, the Model T. William Taft won the Presidential race and the Chicago Cubs beat Detroit in the World Series.
That is how long it has been folks.
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