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10 Interesting Facts About the Clemson vs. South Carolina Rivalry

This Palmetto State rivalry goes back more than 120 years.
Steve Taneyhill, South Carolina Gamecocks Football

South Carolina quarterback Steven Taneyhill will always hold a special place in the history of the Gamecocks' rivalry with Clemson

South Carolina travels to Clemson this Saturday for the 119th meeting between the two schools. The Gamecocks spoiled Tennessee’s playoff hopes last weekend and would love to do so even more to Clemson since these two schools detest each other. Here are 10 reasons why.

1. Political Factions

A book could be written on the vitriolic political atmosphere in which Clemson was formed. Basically, warring political factions disagreed on whether the state of South Carolina needed an agricultural school or if those needs were being met by South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina). When the joint resolution to establish Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina came before the state’s General Assembly in 1889, it passed by one vote. Few would argue against Clemson’s value to the state of South Carolina today, but the animosity is still there.

2. The First Brawl

Clemson and South Carolina first met in 1896 and the rivalry experienced its first major ruckus in 1902. In the week leading up to the game, South Carolina fans carried a poster with a gamecock standing on top of a tiger steering it by the tail. Fights broke out on Wednesday, on game day on Thursday, and during the South Carolina State Fair parade on Friday. The continued fighting led to the rivalry being called off until 1909.

3. Big Thursday Rivalry

From 1896 to 1959, South Carolina and Clemson played on Thursday during the South Carolina State Fair. Even though it was played in Columbia, it was not a home game for the Gamecocks since a wooden stadium was erected on the fairgrounds. The “Big Thursday Rivalry” was discontinued in 1959, as both schools wanted to play on Saturday later in the season and alternate between home stadiums.

4. Cary Cox

The only player to captain both teams was Cox. He played for Clemson in 1942, but was placed at South Carolina in '43 through the V-12 Navy College Training Program, which was designed to train officers. Cox did not want to play against his former teammates, but was told he would not get a commission if he did not suit up. He was named captain and led the Gamecocks to a 33-6 win. Cox returned to Clemson in 1947 and was named captain for the South Carolina game in what was a losing effort for the Tigers.

5. Counterfeit Tickets

Leading up to the 1946 game, two brothers from New York named Milton and Irving Rosner decided to cash in on the game’s popularity by printing counterfeit tickets. They sold their fake wares in Charleston and Columbia before police were alerted to their scam. The Rosner brothers were arrested, but the damage had already been done. On game day, no one could tell the difference between the counterfeit and real tickets. The fire marshal shut the gate to the stadium, but it was knocked down by an angry mob of fans, which then stormed the field. Secretary of State James F. Byrnes was able to calm down the crowd and then thousands of fans were allowed to stand along the sideline for the game.

6. The Prank

This rivalry has produced countless shenanigans, but none are as legendary as what members of South Carolina’s Sigma Nu fraternity chapter pulled off in 1961. A few minutes before the Clemson players were scheduled to take the field at Carolina Stadium (now Williams-Brice Stadium), the Sigma Nu members took the field dressed in Tiger uniforms. They were so convincing that the Clemson band actually played “Tiger Rag.” But the jig was up with fans when they started acting like a bunch of slapstick comedians, dropping passes and missing placekicks. Some Clemson fans stormed the field, but no punches were exchanged. In one bizarre ending to this story, the Sigma Nu boys had gotten a cow that they were going to crown as Clemson’s homecoming queen at halftime, but it died on the way to the stadium.

7. Orange Pants

It’s hard not to think of Clemson without thinking of all-orange uniforms. That was not the case before its 1980 matchup against South Carolina. Muddling through a 5-5 season and facing the 14th-ranked Gamecocks and Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers, head coach Danny Ford had his team don orange pants. It was the first time Clemson had ever taken the field in those all-orange uniforms that we all take for granted today. The Tigers stunned South Carolina, winning 27-6. It may have been the uniforms. Then again, Clemson won the national title the next season so this team may have been fully coming into its own. Either way, it’s a heck of a story.

8. The Paw Signature

Few Gamecock quarterbacks hold the mystique of Steve Taneyhill for many reasons, including the aforementioned one. When South Carolina started the 1992 season 0-5, the longhaired freshman took over the starting duties and won five of his last six games. Taneyhill closed out the season with a 24-13 win over Clemson in Death Valley that destroyed the Tigers' bowl hopes. After a key second-half score, he signed his name with his finger on the Tiger paw at midfield. Oh, and he bowed to the fans after the game too.

9. The Latest Brawl

On Nov. 19, 2004, Indiana Pacer Ron Artest went after a Detroit Pistons fan in the stands in one of the most infamous moments in NBA history. The next day, South Carolina and Clemson players collectively said, “Hold my beer.” After Gamecock quarterback Syvelle Newton was knocked down after an incomplete pass during the fourth quarter in the midst of a 29-7 loss, Clemson players continued to lie on top of him. So the players began shoving each other and players from both sidelines rushed the field. The brawl was broken up, but it made national news. As punishment, both schools forfeited postseason play, even though they were both bowl eligible.

10. A Final Play Victory

There have been many close games in this series, but the rivalry was more than 110 years old before a team won on the final play. In 2007, Clemson kicker Mark Buchholz nailed a 35-yard field goal as time expired to give the Tigers a 23-21 victory. It is the only time a team has won on the final play in this series.

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.