SEC's Conference-Only Plan Means No Tigers-Gamecocks in 2020
For 111 consecutive years, Clemson and South Carolina have met on a football field.
For college football's second-longest uninterrupted series, that streak is coming to an end this fall. The SEC is going to a 10-game, conference-only revised schedule Thursday, just a day after the ACC said it planned on having one non-conference game built into its 10-game league season.
The SEC's model is a done deal with an official announcement.
"We believe these schedule adjustments offer the best opportunity to complete a full season by giving us the ability to adapt to the fluid nature of the virus and the flexibility to adjust schedules as necessary if disruptions occur," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said. "It is regrettable that some of our traditional non-conference rivalries cannot take place in 2020 under this plan, but these are unique, and hopefully temporary, circumstances that call for unconventional measures."
South Carolina president Robert Caslen said he voted against the conference-only schedule, and there are reports that he was the only voting member from the SEC to do so.
The ACC put the onus on the SEC on Wednesday in hopes of preserving rivalries between Clemson-South Carolina, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Louisville-Kentucky and Florida-Florida State. However, all of those games have been eliminated with the SEC's decision. How the league plans on adding two games to its already-planned 8-game slate is still unknown.
"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," Clemson athletic director Dan 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."
Regardless, there's no room for the Tigers and Gamecocks to square off in Death Valley on Thanksgiving Weekend or any weekend for that matter. It's a huge blow to a rivalry that has withstood South Carolina moving in and out of various conferences, multiple leagues expanding and the College Football Playoff era...until now.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all that we know about football, but it was still expected that the virus wouldn't halt the Palmetto State's biggest rivalry, which began in 1896, that means so much to so many people.
“We all want to preserve it. We all want to play it," Clemson president Jim Clements said last week during a Zoom call. "It is important and we are going to do our best to make sure that happens.”
Despite South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner and Radakovich being constantly in contact about the rivalry, the decision was taken out of their hands.
"I am disappointed that we will not play our in-state rival this year. It is a great rivalry and one of the nation's best," Tanner said in a statement released by the school. "The pandemic has created many challenges and forced us to make adjustments."
Clemson, which leads the series all-time 71-42-4, was going for its seventh consecutive win over the Gamecocks in 2020, but that run will be put on hold. A streak that began in 1909 also takes a backseat.
It will be a hard pill to swallow for many fans of the Tigers and Gamecocks, especially since it feels like there were ways to keep the rivalry going until the SEC decided against it.
"It's unfortunate that we will not be playing Clemson this season but that wasn't our choice, it was a league decision," South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said in a statement released by the school. "That's a game that is important to our program, our institution and our state, and one that President (Bob) Caslen and Coach Tanner pushed hard to make happen. I look forward to renewing the rivalry in 2021."
What Clemson will do no for its one non-conference game is unknown. Could the Tigers keep The Citadel or Akron? Possibly, but there's the issue of equitable testing across leagues, a mandate by the ACC. Clemson could also look to play an ACC team that isn't on the schedule for a game that wouldn't count against league standings.
"We will work to fill the opening on our schedule immediately," Radakovich said.