This profile of the Clemson and South Carolinia college football rivalry originally appeared in Athlon's 1989 college football annuals. With the rivalry set to be revisited this week, we thought it would be relevant to take a look at the history between these two Palmetto State institutions.
The Great Rivalries — South Carolina vs. Clemson
By Al Thomy
From his room high atop the Wade Hampton Hotel, Gene Moore could have sworn the whole city of Columbia was on fire.
It was the night of October 20, 1948, the eve of Big Thursday. That’s what they called the day of the annual game between Clemson and the University of South Carolina. The contest was the centerpiece of State Fair week.
Moore, starting center for Clemson, must have felt like one of those prisoners tied to a tree in a Tarzan movie. Each year the game was played on South Carolina’s campus in Columbia, and each year the emotions were the same.
Now a retired school administrator and coach in Lake City, S.C., Moore sat down to a breakfast of eggs and grits and Prosser’s Café one morning and relived those days four decades ago.
“Because there were no such things as surburban motels at the time, we always stayed at the Wade Hampton, across the street from the State capitol and the USC campus,”’ Moore said. “It was the only hote’ big enough to accommodate the team, the fans and all the South Carolina alumni who stayed there.”
“Already we’d been exposed to full-time hype: The drummer who beat a drum 24 hours a day for seven days at Clemson, all the newspaper stories, and now, at the Wade Hampton, we were a captive audience to South Carolina’s pregame rituals. They’d come by the thousands, carrying torches and effigies of our starting team and Coach (Frank) Howard, to gather at a bonfire. Then they’d toss the effigies into the fire.”
“With the noise and the strange glow over the skyline, there was no ay we could get any sleep. We were worn out before the game even started.”
With his farm background, Moore was the prototype of Clemson football, recruited on one of Howard’s swings through the low country. The passing of time and the NCAA statues of limitations allowed him to say he’d turned down a “fantastic offer” from South Carolina (“$50 a month dry-cleaning stipend, all the clothes I could wear and a full scholarship”) to accept a make-good bid from Clemson.
Howard said he’d give $150.
“Is that a month,” asked more. “Naw, a year,” replied Howard.
After thinking for a moment, Howard said, “Tell you what I’ll do, Moore. You make the traveling squad and you’ll get a full scholarship.”
When Moore had moved up to the fourth string in practice, Howard called him aside and said, “OK, Moore, I’ll take it from here.”
Moore’s decision brought about great change in his life.
As a farm boy, he’d never found time for much hatred, but now, unwittingly, he had become a baptized follower of “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman and the farmers’ revolt of 1885.
Moore was part of a rivalry started in 1889. That’s when Tillman, leader of the farmers’ revolt, successfully lobbied to move South Carolina’s agricultural college from the “aristocrat” University of South Carolina to a new school founded in Clemson.
Eight years later the farmers and the aristocrats began playing a new fangled game, football, during the State Fair week in Columbia. It wasn’t a blood match; it was a bad blood match.
The “culture vs. agriculture” rivalry is not unique; you find it with Alabama and Auburn, North Carolina and North Carolina State, Iowa and Iowa State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, and Kansas, and Kansas State, among others.