Shane Beamer and Emily, his wife, were happily presenting school supplies and other goodies to a group of Richland Two elementary schools on an August afternoon when the University of South Carolina head football coach acknowledged Robert Carswell. The assistant principal at Joseph Keels Elementary had thought of connecting the elementary schools and the Gamecocks, but he had omitted a key bit of information.
Shane teased Robert that he may have had second thoughts about the collaboration if he had known that Robert was a former Clemson University defensive back. Regardless of venue, it seems all roads lead to the Palmetto State’s biggest rivalry.
Clemson was founded in 1889, and within seven years the Tigers and Gamecocks were colliding in football. Political friction between the universities’ early supporters, regional differences, and even the academic aims of the schools quickly began to play themselves out on athletic fields, in grandstands, and at dinner tables.
While the rivalry has become perennial, the football game is not always so. In the early 1900s, the series was halted for several years following a riot among fans of each school. The 2020 game fell victim to pandemic-related scheduling issues.
When it has been played, the Tigers have held an advantage. They won 13 of the first 17 contests and have maintained an edge that is currently 72-42-4. The teams have created some interesting streaks in recent years, however. The Tigers have won the past seven contests, including last fall. Just before that, the Gamecocks won five in a row from 2009-13. And from 1991-97, the teams alternated victories — each winning on their opponent’s home turf.
Home turf has only been an issue since 1960. Prior to that, the game was played in Columbia each year, a centerpiece of the S.C. State Fair, typically on a Thursday – Big Thursday – in late October. Once the teams began alternating between Clemson and Columbia, the matchup shifted toward the end of schedule. Now it’s typically the final regular season game for each team, played the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Thus, between grace and pumpkin pie, many a Turkey Day discussion surrounds the prospects for each team in their tussle for bragging rights. Perhaps a bit of gravy is spilled as drumsticks are pointed and umbrage is taken, but if everyone behaves themselves on Nov. 26, they’ll do it all again next year.