If there is anyone who understands what the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry means to the people of South Carolina, it is former Clemson football coach Danny Ford.
Ford was involved in the state’s biggest game for 13 seasons from 1977-’89. He spent 11 of those as Clemson’s head coach, going 7-3-1 against the Gamecocks.
Ford knows Clemson and South Carolina fans are truly hurting over the news that this year’s game was canceled by the SEC on Thursday, as the league announced it was going to play a conference-only schedule in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he told Fox Carolina on Friday, that outside the state of South Carolina, no one else in the SEC genuinely cares about one of the nation’s longest rivalries. They don’t know or understand what the game means to Clemson and South Carolina fans.
“The only thing at South Carolina and Clemson that matter are the people that have love and affection for each school and the state of South Carolina,” he said. “People in Georgia, people in Tennessee, they don’t care about South Carolina and Clemson. So, it is not hurting them.
“The only people it is hurting is the people that are in the state and people in the state take a lot of pride in it.”
Clemson and South Carolina have met on the football field for 111 consecutive years, going back to 1909. It was the second longest uninterrupted series in college football.
Overall, the Tigers and Gamecocks have met 117 times since 1896, with Clemson leading the all-time series 71-42-4. It is tied for the 11th oldest rivalry in major college football.
“I read in the paper it has been 111 consecutive years we have played each other and that is tough to let that got. But this is a tough year, too. We have never seen nothing like it,” Ford said.
Though Ford understands what the SEC was thinking, he also knows if some of its traditional rivalry games were in jeopardy, such as the Iron Bowl Game between Alabama and Auburn, they would find a way to play that game.
“So, I don’t have the answer on that, I just know if it was Alabama and Auburn, they don’t have to face that situation, but they would find a way to play,” he said.
Ford knows all about the Alabama-Auburn rivalry, too. He grew up in Gadsden, Alabama and played football for the Crimson Tide from 1967-’69 under legendary head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Ford later became an assistant coach for Alabama.
Ford became the head coach at Clemson in 1978 and led the Tigers to a 96-29-4 record in his 11 years in Tigertown. His 1981 Clemson team won the school its first national championship in any sport by going 12-0 and defeating Nebraska in the 1982 Orange Bowl to wrap up the 1981 National Championship.
His Clemson teams also won five ACC Championships and beat teams such as Ohio State, Penn State and Oklahoma in bowl games. Ford’s Clemson teams were 5-2 in bowl games.
In 2017, Ford was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He is also in the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame, the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame and in the Clemson Ringer of Honor at Memorial Stadium.
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