This week we will highlight some of the most interesting games in the long, heated, storied rivalry between Clemson and South Carolina.
South Carolina and Clemson are public universities supported by the state of South Carolina. There campuses are separated by only 132 miles and have been bitter rivals since 1896. This long running and heated rivalry continues to this day.
Clemson leads the series 71-42-4. This lead by the Tigers is even more impressive when you consider this fact. Every game in the series from 1896-1959 was played in Columbia. The game was called “Big Thursday” and was held every year during State Fair Week. The Universities would benefit from the increase of fair visitors to help fill the then, Carolina Stadium. It was a highlight for everyone in South Carolina except Clemson head coach Frank Howard.
Howard made his displeasure of the situation known to anyone that would listen. Finally, in 1959, the State Legislature agreed with Howard and the game would move forward on a home and home basis. There’s a photo of Howard, after the final Big Thursday game, blowing a “goodbye kiss” to this one-sided tradition.
Here are four of the rivalry’s most memorable games from the fifties and sixties.
1952: Game Mandated by South Carolina Law
The Southern Conference (SoCon) almost brought the longstanding rivalry to an abrupt end when it ordered Clemson to play no other league team other than Maryland as punishment for both schools accepting bowl bids against conference rules (both Clemson and UofSC were members at the time). Upon request of both schools’ presidents, the S.C. General Assembly passed a resolution on February 27, 1952, ordering the game to be played. The Gamecocks won the contest 6–0. The SoCon reacted to the game by attempting to suspend Clemson, leading seven member schools, including Clemson and UofSC, to leave the league and form the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in May 1953.
1959: Final Big Thursday
For 64 years Clemson traveled to Columbia to face the Gamecocks for the annual Big Thursday rivalry. This year would mark the end of the tradition as the rivalry progressed to a home-and-home series played on a Saturday. However, the two schools would not move the contest to the last regular season game of each season until two years later. Clemson won the final Big Thursday match-up 27–0.
1961: The Prank
In 1961, the UofSC fraternity, Sigma Nu pulled what some have called the greatest prank in the rivalry’s history. A few minutes before Clemson football players entered the field for pregame warm ups, a group of Sigma Nu fraternity members ran onto the field, jumping up and down and cheering in football uniforms that resembled the ones worn by the Tigers. This caused the Clemson band to start playing “Tiger Rag,” which was followed by the pranksters falling down as they attempted to do calisthenics. They would also do football drills where guys would drop passes and miss the ball when trying to kick it. Clemson fans quickly realized that they had been tricked, and some of them angrily ran onto the field. However, security restored order before any blows could be exchanged. The South Carolina frat boys had also acquired a sickly cow they planned to bring out during halftime to be the “Clemson Homecoming Queen”, but the cow died en route to the stadium. South Carolina won the game 21–14.
1963: National Tragedy Moves Game
On November 23, 1963, the Tigers and Gamecocks were set to play the annual rivalry on live national TV. However, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy the day before would affect the scheduling of the game. Both schools planned to proceed with the original day and time, but federal government pressure caused the schools to push the game to November 28, marking the only time Clemson and South Carolina played on Thanksgiving Day. Clemson won the game 24–20.
On Tuesday, we will continue our series looking back at the history of the Palmetto Bowl.
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