Clemson vs. Boston College: Storied Tale of Ties, Flutie, Probation, Thorns

I was thinking recently about misery, actually, football related misery. In 1977, Clemson’s football fortunes had started to turn. A national championship in 1981, followed by a decade of unbridled success only surpassed by the programs recent, unprecedented run.

Times were great, indeed. Danny Ford had built a well oiled machine, a winner but there were a few thorns on the stems of the roses of his success.

While having met several times before, the Clemson, Boston College rivalry began with a 1982 game in Death Valley. The game was televised by CBS on a regional basis, the first CBS broadcast from Clemson Memorial Stadium. I remember the excitement when it was announced that any Clemson game would be televised. It’s totally different than the world we live in today.

On that Saturday, as those in the Southeastern part of the country watched on, Clemson built a comfortable 14-0 lead at half-time. In the third quarter, a relatively unknown sophomore quarterback named Doug Flutie led Boston College back to take a 17-14 lead.

The Tigers tied the game in the fourth quarter, on a field goal by Donald Igwebuike, who then had another attempt from 43 yards with eight seconds left, but the kick missed and the game ended in a 17-17 tie. I am so glad the concept of ending a game in a tie was thrown out.

Former Tigers’ head coach Frank Howard, “The Bashful Baron of Barlow Bend” said it best, in that gravelly, southern drawl of his, “A tie is like kissing your sister.” What a great way to describe something as meaningless, frustrating and futile as a tie.

In 1983, in the picturesque setting of Chestnut Hill, outside of Boston, the Eagles gained a 31-16 win. Due, much in part, to the antics of that “Mighty Mouse” QB, Doug Flutie, he would crush the Tiger’s spirit that day. Unbelievably, Clemson had a 16-3 lead with 25 minutes left in the game, but the Eagles went on a 28-0 run to end the contest through Flutie’s antics. It was Clemson’s only loss in 1983 (9-1-1) and one that will forever be remembered as a day of infamy in the annals of Clemson Football history.

In 1982, the Tigers suffered under the NCAA imposed “Double Secret Probation.” Clemson was put on probation for the 1982-1983 seasons and the ACC levied an additional year onto that ban. The Tigers weren’t allowed to accept bowl invitations nor compete for the ACC title.

The Tigers would remain caged through the 1984 season. Those were three bittersweet seasons for the Clemson Family but they not only survived, they thrived.

Clemson had just two losses and two ties over a three-year period from 1981-83. One of those losses and one of those ties came against Boston College. It was during these first games in 1982/83 that BC became a well respected “thorn” in the side of the Tigers. Despite the recent success in the series by the Tigers, the Eagles will always be that thorn.

As the Tiger faithful look forward to tomorrow, they hope (and yes, pray) for a good game between these divisional rivals. While it’s been a rough year for the Tigers thus far and a great year by comparison for the Eagles, in this sort of rivalry, none of that matters much.

Most games have been hard fought, not in words among rival fanbases but in effort on the field of play. Honestly, the Boston College fans that come to the Valley every other year are among the classiest fanbases that follows their team. The kind of folks you’d feel comfortable inviting them to sit at your dinner table. Good, decent folks.

One thing for sure, it will be an interesting match-up and one where the Tigers hope they can be the thorn in the Eagles side on Saturday. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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